Over the past few months it seems every time I go to a conference, a meeting, or check in with my PLN, standards based reporting keeps coming up. At first I didn’t pay much attention to it. My focus recently hasn’t been on PK-12 student assessments as much as it has been on teacher evaluations and teacher effectiveness. However, with the extra time in the summer to catch up and refocus, I thought I’d look into this standards based reporting thing a little more before I get back into the full swing of the school year. So I sent a message to @mctownsley and @russgoerend to ask for some help starting off. Russ sent me a link to what his district is doing with standards based reporting and I am surprised how much I learned.
Standards based reporting to me, based on my very limited research, but I’ll take Russ and the Waukee CSD as reliable sources, is about assessing students based on their progress towards grade level content standards. The kicker is that the normal grading system isn’t used and in its place is a scheme that helps describe the level at which a student is performing on each standard. What I quickly discovered that I liked about standards based grading was the fact that students aren’t being assessed on their behavior, but rather on what they know. However, behavior is important, but instead of grouping it with the content standards, it has its own separate place, which seems to make sense.
So why does this all this matter? Well first and foremost, teachers are better able to design and target their efforts for their students since each student more or less gets an individualized report of where they are in terms of acquiring a particular concept or skill. This means less large group instruction where only a fraction of students will benefit, to more small group and individual style activities. By grouping students or through individualized instruction, the type of “teaching” students receive can be more targeted to what they need, rather than trying to meet the needs of anywhere from 20 to 30 students. Standards based reporting also matters because communication with parents can now be more clear and open. Whether a student is struggling, succeeding, or has behavioral considerations, teachers, parents, and students have a much more concise method for looking at the evidence, allowing for better decision making.
However, I do have a couple questions. My first question surrounds how college admissions would react to standards based reporting. However, as I think about it a little more, if the transcripts reflect the progress students have made towards a standard, they’d still be able to determine their success on different subjects making them more than able to determine if the student would be a good candidate. In fact, they would likely be better informed than with the traditional report card. I’d wager the real problem would be with how a change at the LEA level would change the process at IHE level. In the end, are colleges and universities not going to accept any students from a certain school because of the type of grading system used? I highly doubt it. It comes down to change, which is a long and difficult process for some.
My other burning question is: At what point is a student deemed ready to move on to the next level? At what point do they pass the course? Does it require a satisfactory completion of all standards, the majority, or some other indicator? I wasn’t sure what to think about this question. I’d imagine this would be unique for each school?
This may seem like an off topic for an edtech blog, but it really isn’t. When it comes down to educational technology, the only thing that truly matters is the education part and how technology can support it. This means we need to have a logical assessment system for students so we can better design instruction with appropriate technology. As I think about all the 1:1 initiatives in the state, having a solid assessment system in place so stakeholders can determine if gains are being made in each content area is crucial. Standardized tests are too unreliable in my opinion, while standards based reports show some promise.
Your thoughts? Did I miss something or mis-represent a key component of standards based reporting?