For Parents and FAQ
Teachers break long-term learning targets into supporting targets that help scaffold students’ progress. Assessments are then linked with supporting targets to build a “body of evidence” that provides information about a student’s progress toward meeting the long-term target.
In order to “meet” a long-term learning target, a student should be able to demonstrate that s/he can reliably demonstrate that target when it is assessed. Meeting a long-term learning target reliably does not mean meeting it perfectly. Some targets address skills and knowledge which may only have to be demonstrated once during a course; other targets may address skills or habits which have to be addressed multiple times during a quarter to ensure mastery.
Teachers will update their gradebook weekly to determine a student’s progress toward meeting each long-term learning target. A teacher considers the most recent information, which may be the most accurate depending on the particular assessments and how the supporting targets relate to the long-term target. Also, if a student has not turned in a particular assignment, a teacher may determine that there is insufficient evidence to determine progress at that time. The determination of a grade on any particular long-term learning target at no point involves a calculation, a teacher uses his/her professional judgment to look at the collected body of evidence and determines the level of assessment the most reliably demonstrated at that time.
The staff at Open World Learning Community will use Ken O’Connor’s book, A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades, as the basis for what is and is not factored into a students’ grade.
1. Don’t include student behaviors (effort, participation, adherence to class rules, etc.) in grades; include only achievement toward the learning target.
2. Don’t reduce marks on “work” submitted late; provide support for the learner.
3. Don’t give points for extra credit or use bonus points; seek only evidence that more work has resulted in a
higher level of achievement.
4. Don’t punish academic dishonesty with reduced grades; apply other consequences and reassess to
determine actual level of achievement.
5. Don’t consider attendance in grade determination; report absences separately.
6. Don’t include group scores in grades; use only individual achievement evidence.
7. Don’t organize information in grading records by assessment methods or simply summarize into a single
grade; organize and report evidence by learning targets.
8. Don’t assign grades using inappropriate or unclear performance standards; provide clear descriptions of
9. Don’t assign grades based on student’s achievement compared to other students; compare each student’s
performance to preset standards.
10. Don’t rely on evidence gathered using assessments that fail to meet standards of quality; rely only on
11. Don’t rely on the mean; consider other measures of central tendency and use professional judgment.
12. Don’t include zeros in grade determination when evidence is missing or as punishment; use alternatives,
such as reassessing to determine real achievement, or use I” for Incomplete or Insufficient Evidence.
13. Don’t use information from formative assessments and practice to determine grades; use only summative
14. Don’t summarize evidence accumulated over time when learning is developmental and will grow with time
and repeated opportunities; in those instances, emphasize more recent achievement.
15. Don’t leave students out of the grading process. Involve students; they can – and should – play key roles
in assessment and grading that promote achievement.
There are a number of reasons that the move to standards based grading occurred for Open World Learning Community.
1. Historically the program did not use any type of grading scale to assess students, but instead used a comprehensive narrative feedback grading system. The strength of the system was in the detail of feedback about the student’s work in each class. One weakness is that it did not promote a mastery of specific learning targets, but a general understanding of the course material. There has also been a concern with the more recently adopted “Pass / No Pass” grading system which seem to have set a clear minimum standard for learning, but did not adequately define an advanced level of understanding for students to pursue. Standards based grading is a system that promotes mastery of content, not completion of assigned work. Standards based grading provides feedback to students about how they are progressing towards specific learning targets and informs them on how to make improvements in order to better their mastery of a target.
2. Past systems were also difficult to communicate with the world beyond Open World Learning Community, especially in regards to producing an accurate GPA, often necessary for scholarships and other necessary applications, including insurance “good student” verification. The new grading system creates a clear translation of a student’s mastery of learning targets to a traditional letter grade.
3. A significant amount of research and literature has been presented on school grading systems. It is now considered educational best practice to use standards based grading to assess and give feedback in order to promote student success. Please feel free to request a list of the research material that was used to develop the Standards Based Grading system at Open World Learning Community.
During each unit of study the instructor will use the Wheel of Exemplitude to provide opportunities to show an exemplary understanding of the long term learning targets. Time will be provided during the course for students to show their mastery, but time outside of the class will also be necessary. Learning targets are written at a Proficiency level and it is the responsibility of the teacher to clarify what Exemplary understanding will entail. This is consistent with fix 3 listed above.
As one staff member said, “I will be more aggressive about getting my students opportunities to show an Exemplary understanding of my learning targets”. This is the number one reason that grade deflation will not be an issue as staff are diligent in providing opportunities for students to be Exemplary. Additionally, the absence of a grade at the C- level and lower minimizes the complacency a student may have for settling for a lower grade which would negatively impact an overall GPA. The grading system promotes a higher level of understanding and therefore a higher level of achievement.
Yes. Grades are dynamic as students may show a strong understanding of a topic in 2nd quarter that they were weak in during 1st quarter, this new level of understanding is then reflected by using new assessment data to modify an early assigned grade. Grades will fluctuate throughout a marking period as well as over multiple marking periods. Finally, at the end of the school year a student’s grade will become fixed. This does not mean that a teacher will be revisiting all previously assessed targets throughout the year, but if the student take initiative to show mastery of a previous topic that mastery will be accepted into the gradebook.
Open World Learning Community has developed a set of core Values. Teachers will develop ways to assess their students against these values in their classes. These assessments are not part of the overall grade, which is consistent with fixes 1, 2, 4, and 5 above. Instead, this information is reported separately. Here a scenario helps make this point.
A student does a project and is given a grade of 15/25. This score gives no indication of why a student lost 10 points. Did they lose 10 points because it was late? Did they lose 10 points because they plagiarized? Did they lose 10 points because they didn’t understand the concept completely? Under traditional systems without conversation it would be impossible to tell. However, research is clear, students should only be graded on what they know or can do. Under a standards-based grading system you could assume their loss of points would be from a lack of understanding. Cheating would be recorded under the integrity core value. Lateness of work has no bearing on understanding, but may be recorded under the responsibility core value. Neither cheating nor lateness can be revised. However, with a 15/25 the student may get a D for the Learning Targets but there is a clear way to revise the project and get the grade up to a P level.