This week’s post was inspired by a Standards-Based Grading system I observed while subbing in a middle school math class recently. In the class, students were using the Schoology LMS (Learning Management System) to view the math goals (dubbed proficiencies) they had not yet reached for the quarter. They then took that information and sought out resources posted online by the teacher in order to help them meet those goals. Proficiency was demonstrated through quizzes posted online by the teacher. To study for each proficiency, students explored linked Khan Academy videos and completed various practice activities.
The system appealed to me for several reasons. Most importantly, students were aware of those skills they had mastered and which needed more practice. They also had the self-sufficiency to find and use the appropriate resources to help prepare to meet those goals. Students had a high degree of ownership over their learning and technology was providing both students and the teacher with data to analyze learning.
ISTE Educator Standard 6a asks educators to, “Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.” While the system I observed used technology to meet those goals, I wanted to explore other tools available. I am not a big fan of Schoology and I was also curious about LMS systems designed specifically for Standards-Based Grading.
First of all, what is Standards-Based Grading (SBG)?
Standards-Based Grading is a method of assigning students a grade based on mastery of concepts instead of averages across multiple miscellaneous assignments. Ideally, the goals of a course should be driven by standards. Those goals are what is being measured in an SBG system. Instead of traditional letter grades, you may see terms like ‘Developing, Approaching, Mastery, Exceeding.’ These terms are sometimes converted to a number scale 1-4.
Why the shift to Standards-Based Grading (SBG)?
- Traditional grades are inconsistent. Mastery based on standards is a much more qualitative learning measure than a traditional letter grade which also represents a student’s motivation, interest, and level of home support. Traditional letter grades also tend to be very subjective. What one teacher deems an A+ paper, another might assign a B-. SBG is much more objective. A grade is assigned based on whether or not specific learning goals are met (example- ‘Student used text evidence to support their analysis’).
- Traditional grades rarely reflect mastery. As Scriffiny argues, “If we base our grades on standards rather than attendance, behavior, or extra credit (which often has nothing to do with course objectives), we can actually help students grapple with the idea of quality and walk away with a higher degree of self-sufficiency.” (2008)
- SBG better promotes growth. Like many teachers, it frustrates me when students focus on making the minimum grade and moving on. Learning becomes a siloed, once-and-done experience. It feels inauthentic and drives students away from intrinsic motivation. Teacher and author John Spencer connects traditional grading to students’ fear of taking risks; “…when they see that their grades are based upon mastery rather than averaging, they realize that mistakes are an integrated part of the class flow.” There is value in these risks and mistakes because “when students can see [mistakes] as a natural part of the process, they can use mistakes to guide their reflection and ultimately celebrate their successes and the mistake-laden journey that led them there.” (Spencer, as quoted in Ferlazzo, 2016)
What is Kiddom?
In searching for ways that technology can support SBG and student ownership, I discovered a blog post by Angela Watson discussing Kiddom online. Kiddom is a Learning Management System that supports Standards-Based Grading for teachers in grades K-12. free for teachers and students. Dozens of standards are available including state-specific standards, Common Core standards, the ISTE standards, Next Generation Science standards, and even Social Emotional Learning standards.
Much like Google Classroom or Schoology, Kiddom serves as an online grade book and classroom. After setting up your class and inviting students, you can use the Kiddom library of lessons or upload your own assignments. Kiddom is fully integrated with Google Doc and you can incoporate lessons from popular sites like Newsela, Khan Academy, and IXL Learning. For each assignment, you can choose multiple standards and rubrics. You can choose between pre-populated rubrics and creating your own.
Kiddom also supports blended learning since you can include non-digital assignments and input the scores based on a rubric. To get an idea of what Kiddom looks like from a student’s perspective, check out this blog post.
How does Kiddom support individualized learning?
The data available to teachers give an accessible and visually appealing overview of where individual students and the class as a whole are at in terms of meeting set goals and overall standards. You can see some examples of that data on the page ‘What Insights Do My Reports Offer?’
Using that data to inform instruction, assignments can be given to specific students based on their level of mastery. This is ideal for providing either extensions, extra practice, or remediation based on student need.
How can Kiddom support student ownership?
Kiddom uses the following graphic to depict the learning cycle that is possible with Standards-Based Grading and the Kiddom software. It’s similar to many cyclical education models where the student defines the tasks and sources, completes the task, reflects, and refines.
Using the reporting tools, students have the ability to view their progress toward specific goals. Kiddom provides a student-centered video tutorial for how to interpret reports on Kiddom. Below is a snapshot of the overall view students and parents can see from the Kiddom dashboard. Clicking on individual assignments within a standard reveals comments and the rubric used to assess the work. In this way, students know what they need to do in order to improve their mastery.
Another neat feature that Kiddom provides is the ability to teach using Playlists. Playlists support student choice (as I’ve previously explored). Playlists can be used to offer multiple ways to learn and show you know. Additionally, they can be assigned to specific students based on need or interest. One way I can envision using this tool in the Language Arts classroom is to support digital literature circles where each group is reading a different novel.
Are there any drawbacks?
The level of teacher investment and interest in the Kiddom system will likely impact how successful the tool is in supporting student ownership and individualized learning.
Kiddom offers a powerful set of tools if fully utilized. If not fully utilized, I can see this being a glorified online rubric system. For instance, if a teacher is only checking a box on a generic pre-populated rubric and not providing any comments or additional support/differentiation, it’s kind of like using a Ferrari only to transport your kid to soccer practice. It gets the job done, but you don’t need this tool if that’s all you want to accomplish.
To be successful, detailed feedback should be provided by the teacher along with additional support as needed. This is easily accomplished through the differentiated assignment options. Students should be given the option to refine and resubmit work. Standards-Based Grading is about a mind shift as much as it is a grade shift.
Ferlazzo, L. (2016). Response: ‘Freedom to Fail’ Creates a Positive Learning Environment [Blog]. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2016/09/response_freedom_to_fail_creates_a_positive_learning_environment.html
Kiddom – Collaborative Learning Platform. (2018). Retrieved from https://.kiddom.co/
Scriffiny, P. (2008). Seven Reasons for Standards-Based Grading. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/oct08/vol66/num02/Seven_Reasons_for_Standards-Based_Grading.aspx
Townsley, M. (2014). What is the Difference between Standards-Based Grading (or Reporting) and Competency-Based Education?. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/analysis/what-is-the-difference-between-standards-based-grading/