Letting Go of the Past

I’d like to give my students as many chances to learn as possible.  When they’re interested, I’d like to sit with them forever.  Unfortunately, there are some pretty significant logistical obstacles here.

Let's go over it again.

Almost everyone who disagreed with my automated debater for SBG+ (+remediation, +forgiveness of earlier scores, +timely & empowering reporting) disliked the idea of throwing out old assessment scores.  The most convincing criticism I’ve read is at GSWP (alternate link, scroll to bottom):

SBG aficionados believe in instantaneous noise-free measures of achievement.  If a student takes a long time before they “get it”, but then demonstrate mastery, that’s fine.  This results in the practice of replacing grades for a standard with the most recent one.  I think that is ok, as long as the standard keeps being assessed, but if you stop assessing a standard as soon as students have gotten a good enough score (which seems to be the usual way to handle it), then you have recorded their peak performance, not the best estimate of their current mastery.  Think about the fluctuations in stock prices:  the high for the year is rarely a good estimate of the current price, even if the prices have been generally going up.

The author at GSWP points out that averaging multiple assessment scores together works under the assumption that those different assessments were measuring the same thing, and that students’ skill levels are essentially unchanging.  I think this is why some of us have such a strong reaction against averaging.  We like to think that our students learn and improve so much during our class that the first assessments they take have almost no correlation to what they understand at the end of the class.

So.  Given that we have to choose a final score eventually, how do we do it?

I’ve written up a google doc with some ideas about different grade calculation methods. You can edit it by clicking here, or just read it (and what others have added) below.

*Update: argh, sorry, the “don’t require signin” button isn’t working. You’ll need a google account to edit & view. I guess Google is working on it.

I think my favorite (right now) is the decaying average, but I’ve never tried it on actual data. Please leave your thoughts in the doc (you can create a new table to include a different method altogether) or in the comments!

14 thoughts on “Letting Go of the Past”

  1. I am trying something kind of weird. Each assessment of my targets are worth 4 points. The first assessment goes in the grade book as a grade out of 4 points. After the second assessment on the target, the points possible go up to 8 instead of 4. The grade is recorded as the sum of the most recent assessment added to the highest other score. So even though we might assess a target several times, the points possible stays at 8 and only two of the grades are reflected in the score.

      1. I don’t think they are any more confused by the details than they are by the entire system right now.

        I’m liking it because it allows me to see who is just memorizing things for the tests and who is really absorbing.

  2. Dan Meyer’s system knocks off one of the “cons” listed for taking the maximum score, in that a student has to show mastery of a problem twice to get full marks. Right now I still think this is my favorite.

    For decaying average, I’d add the con that a student who sucked at something early on but then figured it out later will be motivated to take multiple assessments for a skill she’s already mastered so as to push down the weight of that initial crappy score as far as possible. ie. Requesting reassessments after class so that her scores are [3, 5, 10 , 10, 10] instead of [3, 5, 10].

    1. Yeah, Dan’s system should go on to the list as well, for sure.

      I think I would prefer a student to go for [3, 5, 10, 10, 10] instead of just leaving it at [3, 5, 10]. Why is that bad?

  3. I guess I don’t really have a formal system. I go with – student self assesses and I assess. Usually we agree and that’s what they have (for now). If we disagree we can set something up and formally do it. That’s rarely necessary.

    1. I like this approach too… but not terribly standards-based and can be tough to justify when asked to present supporting evidence (we homeschool, so I am sensitive to having to deal with that on-demand… I suspect any teacher would in the extreme case where there is significant disagreement in assessments!).

  4. I couldn’t decide between keeping just the best one or two scores, and keeping only the most recent. So I’ve decided this year to keep two scores for each standard: the best, and the most recent. If your best is your most recent, then that score appears in both spots in the gradebook. If it isn’t, then you effectively have the average between your best and most recent. We’ll see how it goes.

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