Why I loved Thomas Guskey today

So I had my fears.  I didn’t want to go.  But, boy, I am glad I did.

First, I really didn’t understand Standards Grading.

It is not simply substituting a 4 for an A or a 3 for a B, though it will take a few years of retraining for students and parents and teachers to comprehend that.

It is not highlighting a rubric and considering that feedback. It is a paradigm shift that does a few crucial things, the most important of which is to remove process and progress feedback from product reflection.  And we need it.

In every team I have ever worked, we debate:  what should late penalties look like? how much should this assignment be weighted?  There is no answer.  In today’s conference, Thomas Guskey repeatedly proved there is no consistency among educators on how and what and why to grade.  So what if we isolate some of the feedback, and, in the process, clarify the feedback?

What if there was a bolded achievement grade and then, as Guskey provided as examples below, separate grades for participation, homework, punctuality, and effort?   What if we graded just the skills manifested in that assignment, and then used a rubric 4, 3, 2, 1 to capture the other relevant and important but non-skill based attributes of a student?


Loved it.

And what if we could take that just one step farther and then have standards supplementing that achievement grade, so parents knew what an A or a B or a C meant in my room particular to skills?   See below:


Yes, it does take a paradigm shift.  Yes, there would be fewer A’s, but this is somewhat tempered by two things:

In the ten years since I did Standards Based, colleges rely less on GPA and more on the rigor of the classes.  According to Mr. Guskey, colleges love this system, mainly because it provides better feedback.  Right now, GPAs mean little as there is no consistency across the USA.

Also, the A is not the point.  Accurate communication of skills is the point.  In some ways, it is easier to get an A as there isn’t the law (or mob rule) of averages here.

But most of all, I did not feel that my propensity to invest in comments is undermined in this system.  I do not need to highlight a rubric, but I can identify a score according to a rubric.  If I had every kid insert a table at the end of the paper with the listed standards, I could easily slip in a 4 or 3 or 2 or 1.  I do not need to resort to paper grading.  I do not need a highlighter.  I can do both and I can do it well.

So consider me ready.  On board.  Salivating.

Let’s go.


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