Learning, Mastery, Grades: One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Yesterday on my way home from school, I listened to a TED podcast from Sal Khan: Let's Teach for Mastery, Not Test Scores. Its a great way to spend 11 minutes, and I don't know about you but I love the cadence of his voice. Very Barack Obama-esque. Politics aside, I love hearing that man speak.

I was pumped after listening to this. It validated my recent cannonballs into flexible seating, and rubric based grading, and it lit my fire to the personalized learning schedule my team is currently launching. I will share those resources, and also give some perspective of how we got to this point in our classrooms. Its a step farther out on a continuum, not a switch that is flipped. 

I have been feeling more and more disillusioned by our grading system in my district. When a parent looks at an 89% in math on a report card, what does that tell them? What does it communicate?

I have asked about whether our district would consider standards based grading for a couple years, and there is a belief that the community would have a hard time accepting that. The argument of "colleges need GPA" comes out at every turn, whether you are talking to an educator, a parent, or a community member. 

More recently, as I've gone through an IMMOOC  and spent more time reflecting on so many innovative ideas, I started to play with the idea of using rubrics to measure my students' learning. It started with an idea to provide more student choice in how they show their learning. I felt that I wasn't being intentional enough about my process standards, so I could create a list of skills needed and allow the students to choose a process TEKS to show their mastery of the content TEKS. Turns out, I didn't know my process TEKS very well.

After spending some time studying those process TEKS, and after a few rounds of feedback from peers and supervisors, I ended up with this.

Feel free to use and tweak and make it your own. Feel free to share those tweaks, suggestions, or questions in the comments below. I am in the trial and error phase, and I've made several corrections as they come up.

Overall, I love what this communicates to parents and ultimately students. I love that it gives the power to the students to assess themselves and iterate as many times as they need to when approaching mastery. It builds opportunity for peer coaching, growth mindset, and still allows me to provide grades for the students and parents to place value on. 

Please leave questions, comments, ideas, suggestions, and critiques in the comments! Feedback is everything!

What do you do to innovate inside the box?


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