It’s that time of year again. Time for end of year, high stakes testing. With the introduction of Race to the Top, Tennessee’s high stakes testing got even tougher. This year, the end of year tests count for 15% of a student’s grade in elementary, 20% in middle school, and 25% in high school. For teachers, it is 35% of their professional evaluation. High stakes…
While other teachers are frantically trying to cram an entire semester of material into a week of review, I am using SBG to determine what I review. At the beginning of the year, I break my semester into bight size chunks or Standards. I then teach and measure learning on those standards. If a student doesn’t show mastery, they are provided several opportunities to demonstrate mastery. The learning is in the hands of the learner and not the teacher.
The best part about this system is the end of the year review. I simply open my digital gradebook and look at the class averages on each standard. The standards that are the lowest for the class are the focus of my review. Not only does this provide much-needed review for the students, it gives them a chance to raise their grade at the end. There is no extra credit or extra project, just measuring learning a student didn’t master the first time. Of course, this makes me a hero in the eyes of the students, because all they see is that I allow them to make mistakes and retest. Let me be honest, it is very selfish as well.
Did I mention the state test is 35% of my evaluation? I want my students to perform well. I know their scores reflect on me and what happens in my classroom. If a student learns how to solve a system of three equations in three variables a week before the high stakes test and not in March when I taught it, I’m ok with that. That is one more standard he or she has mastered. This is one more question correct on the test.
I do not teach to the test, but I make sure my kids have every chance to be successful on it. Standards based grading provides them with the motivation to do this. It isn’t perfect. I hate the testing as much as the next teacher, but it is here and I don’t see it going away anytime soon. So, until there is a perfect system I will use every tool to help my students master the material and do well on the test. Standards based grading is one tool that I feel does this.
I love the blogging world of teachers. I find kindred spirits here. I find people who are passionate about students and learning. I find teachers who are not just passionate about their subject, but about their pedagogy. I find people who want moe than the latest craze in education and don’t want to use the buzz words of the moment, but want to create real change.
I also find this among several of my colleagues. I’m blessed to teach and a school with several people who don’t consider my passion for education an automatic geek label. (Ok, maybe they do, but they hide it well.) I’m blessed to have teachers that want to sit down and struggle with the challenges in education and have a desire to look for solutions. I know not all schools have this and not all teachers can find this.
My husband has a job, and it is a great job, but at 5:30 he comes home and doesn’t think about his job until 8 am the next morning. He doesn’t read blogs about how to be a better claims adjuster or tweet his friends about the most cost-effective manner to fix a vehicle, so sometimes he doesn’t get me. He chalks it up to my overachiever personality. He doesn’t understand why I spend hours every night analyzing student data and why I get excited when I see correlations. He doesn’t understand why my free time is spent reading blogs about math or tweeting fellow teachers. I tell him I don’t have a job, but a calling. I am called to teach and I want to do it to the best of my ability. (Ok, so maybe he is called to handle claims, but I doubt it.)
So, thank you to all the great bloggers out there who inspire me. Thank you to my fellow teachers at my school who push me to be better. I have found kindred spirits and it encourages me to continue my calling.