I’m slowly becoming a big believer in the concept of standards-based grading, particularly as it applies to writing. Throughout my own education (which wasn’t all that long ago), I often had no idea what went into the grading of my essays. Though I was an honors/AP student, essay grading often seemed subjective and, while I learned a lot from the comments, I didn’t know what separated an “A” paper from a “B” paper.
When I started working in my current job, our department used a standards-based rubric to score essays. At the time, we used a 10-point scale to grade the essays, which was quite simple. As we have progressed in our movement towards more standards-based grading, we have evolved into using a 4-point scale, which is simpler and easier to understand.
The inherent problem with this shift is that a 4-point grading scale does not convert neatly to a 100-point grading system like that used in our school. One of my biggest stressors over the last year has been trying to figure out how to solve this problem – how to convert the 4-point rubric to a 100-point grade. For example, if a student earns a 3 on our rubric – which we label as meeting standard – she earns a 75%, which in our normal grading scale is a C. A student who does not quite meet the standard and earns a 2 has just failed with a 50%. Even a student who worked hard on the paper but simply lacks the proficiency to do well on an essay will fail miserably by getting a 1, as that is only a 25%. The problem is obvious to anyone who looks at it, and we’re not even dealing with the dreaded zero (for more on that, check out “The Case Against the Zero,” by Doublas B. Reeves – it’s something of an eye-opener).
Lately, I’ve been working on finding an adequate solution for this problem that is both fair to the students and easy for the teachers. Obviously whatever we do will add some work for the teacher, as we have to convert one scale to the other. But the methodology we choose could minimize that work or make it daunting. After doing a little online research, I came up with a couple of ideas, all of which employed Excel.
- Create a spreadsheet for the entire class that allows me to input the scores from each writing category (content, organization, word choice, etc.) and have it calculate the 100-point grades. This seemed to be an effective, but also somewhat time-consuming choice.
- Create a table (to print out) that converts a total score on our 4-point, 6-trait scale (basically a 24 point scale) into a number that can be entered as a percentage. While this seems to be the most efficient way, it also lacks the ability to weight categories or eliminate categories – basically we’d have to have a scale for every imaginable situation.
- Create a grade adjustment calculator that gets used and reused. Have spaces to input the scores for each trait on the rubric, weight those scores, and have the spreadsheet calculate the adjusted point total for an accurate percentage. This seems, to me, the best balance of efficiency and effectiveness. It acts like a calculator, only you have to switch between windows (unless you’re using dual monitors…*drool*).
As I’m continuing to ponder/debate this difficult issue, I’m hoping for input on a couple of things. If you’d like to provide some feedback, please click a response in one of the two polls below, letting the me the world know which of the above options is best, and what grade you think a 3 (meets standard) should earn . I’d also, obviously love to hear comments on what you’re already doing or what you think might work. Looking forward to seeing some ideas bandied about.