Friday, November 23, 2012

Making PowerSchool Do Standards-Based Grading

A personal opinion: I believe in making things as simple as possible. If a district has purchased a system to report grades, then teachers should try as much as possible to make that system work for them. If parents and students have the habit of using a particular system to check grades, the teacher should not try to form new habits unless absolutely necessary. If the teacher must enter grades into the district system, why would the teacher want to use more time entering the same information in a different system? I know there are grading systems specifically for standards-based grading, such as BlueHarvest and ActiveGrade, and that the truly bright create their own using GoogleDocs, but I guess all that stuff is just too complicated for a dope like me.

A technical note: I use a conjunctive-based system of standards-based grading (inspired by Chris Ludwig) wherein each standard has a 0-4 rubric (inspired by Marzano) and students work to advance up the rubrics. What I write here is specific to my particular system, but the basic technique of making assessments and overall standards "not a part of the final grade" should be useful to teachers using different flavors of standards-based grading.

My gradebook has three sections. It looks like this:

Section 1: Individual Assessments
These are all the pieces of evidence you collect throughout the year to determine what your students know and are able to do against your standards. Each one will of course be aligned with a specific standard. If you look close you can see that each of my assessments begins with an S (for standard) and L (for level; 2, 3, or 4 according to a rubric). So "S4-L3 tumultus dictation" was an assessment for the third level of standard 4. If an individual project or exam addresses more than one standard, then that project or exam should be listed multiple times (for example, S2-L2 Final Exam as one entry and S4-L3 Final Exam as another). Make sure when you create the assignment in PowerSchool that you un-check "include in final grade":

Section 2: Overall Standards
Each of the individual assessments gives you evidence to determine what level each student is at for each standard. If Jill did well on that S4-L3 assessment, then you know she is at level 3 for standard 4. For standard 4, then, her overall standard 4 rank in "section 2" is a 3. If earlier in the quarter she was really weak on standard 4, you of course do not let earlier attempts average into her overall rank for standard 4. She is at an even 3 overall because she has shown you she can do all the content for standard 4, level 3 on the most recent S4-L3 assessment. All of the individual assessments throughout the grading period effect the overall ranks in this way, making them go up or down depending on whether the students have demonstrated mastery, improvement, regression, or whatever else. Make sure that the "assignment" entries for these overall standards are not included in the final grade either.

Section 3: Overall Letter Grades
This is the only column that I "include in final grade." Since I use conjunctive grading, Jill's final letter grade depends on the combination of ranks she has earned:
(The first image doesn't line up exactly with this vanilla example.)

So I enter a 100 for an A, an 85 for a B, and so on, based on how well Jill has done across all the standards.

What about reassessments?
I record teacher-initiated reassessments given to the whole class as normal assessments in "section 1." Student-initiated reassessments, or any other demonstrations of ability done on an individual basis, are recorded as comments to the corresponding overall rank in "section 2."

What about the semester grade?
I don't average quarter 1 with quarter 2 to arrive at the semester grade. (What happens if a student masters a standard only by the end of the second quarter?) Instead, I treat the semester as one long grading period. To get PowerSchool ignore the quarter 1 grade, click on "grade setup":

Then click the small arrow next to "semester 1" (S1):

Turn on "term weights" and set "quarter 2" (Q2) to 100%.

This will make the first semester grade depend entirely on what you enter as the "overall letter grade" for quarter 2, allowing students to make improvements on any standard at any time throughout the semester and get their due reward.

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