While considering what holds teachers back from implementing standards-based grading, I took a step back and thought about one of the most important parts of the grading process: the gradebook.
While some teachers may still keep a paper gradebook, it would be difficult to find a school that does not use an electronic learning management system (LMS) that parents and students have access to 24/7. As standards-based grading gains more popularity, many of these LMS’s have gained the customizations needed to calculate grades by learning target instead of by assignment. Even gradebooks that have these abilities can by clunky, hard to use or many of the customizations can only be done at the district/administrator level.
I have used many gradebook hacks over the years as all of the above issues have affected me. Here are some options that have worked for me and the situations they are best fit for if your LMS does not support standards-based grading.
Use your district’s LMS and enter each learning target as an assignment.
Who should use this method?: This approach is for someone who does not want to spend a lot of time entering grades or is not tech-savvy.
How to do it: Make all of your learning targets an assignment. I usually make the assignment name the learning target code and then put the “I can” statement in the assignment description (if you have that option). Choose the point value for your learning target assignments based on your rubric. For example, I use a “not yet”, “almost”, “got it” rubric so I make my learning targets out of 2 points (“not yet” = 0, “almost” = 1, “got it” = 2). When you enter new grades, you will do a simple replacement of the previous grade with the new grade for the learning target. This replacement can be the most recent grade or you can use a more complicated algorithm that I will explain in the next two options. Your gradebook will automatically take the average across all of your learning targets as it would if you were grading using traditional points.
Pros: This method is the least time consuming and only requires you to work out of one gradebook.
Cons: There is no way within the one gradebook to keep track of all the grades for a learning target, only the current grade. Since you do not have all the data for each learning target, the only calculation method that makes sense is most recent.
Use a third party gradebook and copy grades to your LMS.
Who should use this method?: This approach is for someone who is willing to put a little extra time into entering grades in order to get a more robust data analysis. You should be moderately tech-savvy as you will have to set-up and learn a new gradebook.
How to do it: Find a third-party gradebook that supports standards-based grading (preferably one that is free!). I currently use TeacherEase but another popular option is Jumprope. Set up your new gradebook with your class rosters and your learning targets. Customize your gradebook with your rubric and grade calculation method of choice. If you would like a tutorial for using TeacherEase, just leave a comment and I can write one. You most likely will still be required to enter grades into your school’s LMS. You will need to set up your LMS gradebook as I described in Option 1 and copy over the grades from your third-party gradebook every time you enter a new assessment.
Pros: This method allows for a large amount of customization without the need for a large amount of technical knowledge.
Cons: It can be time-consuming to set up a new gradebook and it is cumbersome to have to enter grades and then copy grades over to another system. You are also limited to the customization options of the software.
Set up a spreadsheet to calculate your grades.
Who should use this method?: This approach is for someone who wants a lot of customization and is very comfortable working with and writing advanced formulas in spreadsheets.
Figure 1: Using Google Sheets for recording grades
How to do it: This is complicated to explain so you can look at the screenshot above and the video below.
To summarize, you create a tab that acts as your master gradebook and you create tabs for every assignment. You write a function to pull data from each assignment to calculate the learning target grades in your master spreadsheet.
Like the previous method, you will need to copy over your learning target grades to your LMS gradebook every time you enter an assessment.
Pros: This method allows for full customization of your grading criteria. Your only limit is your knowledge of spreadsheet functions.
Cons: You need a large amount of technical knowledge to make this work. This is the most time-consuming method as you are writing all of the functions for the calculations.
With standards-based grading, I am always an advocate of doing what works for you. I currently have three preps and I use different gradebook methods for each prep due to the limitations of the standards-based grading functions in my schools’ LMS. While this is not ideal and I would love to operate out of one gradebook, I prefer to do a little extra work to get the data analysis I want. You can certainly still operate using the principles of standards-based grading with a technically points-based gradebook.