Standards Based Grading rocks my face off as you know. In summary: cover some topics, test them, cover a couple new things, test the old with the new, repeat, all in a short time frame. There is one danger that has a tendency to crop up from time to time. The way my system is implemented I test once a week. I also get really ambitious. I have three class sessions in between tests, so I should cover three new things every single time right? Well, since my kids are given a second chance at everything we test about, if I don't stop to address problems that cropped up when a topic was tested for the first time, how I can ask harder questions the second time? Or, my lesson plans might be pushing me towards covering 3 new topics in a week, but I didn't get a sense that they understood the first 2 new things we did. The temptation is "screw it, think of the material you want to crank through! Polynomials by Christmas! Go Go Go!!!" In reality the thought should be "let's keep the test date the same, reduce the number of topics covered, and spend an extra day on
As we slog through linear functions in Algebra II, the need to reduce the scope of my tests has happened several times. Last year while piloting the system I had many scenarios where I would introduce a topic and test the kids THE NEXT DAY. Out of fear of ridiculously terrible grades, this limited the complexity of question I would ask about that topic, making it too much of a softball all in the name of hitting my test date. This year I really try to make sure that anything on a test has time to marinate.
Take last week and this week for example. Last week I wanted to test Functions, Function Notation, Transformations, Parent Functions, and Linear Equations. My pedal to the metal lesson plan said this was feasible. What happened? To meet my test date I would've had to cram equations, inequalities, and the myriad of issues students have with them into one day. This assumed that my two day activity of transformations had been fully absorbed and my kids were geniuses on all the effects of modifying a function. I got blind-sided by coincidentally covering transformations with Pre Cal. Those kids were pros as they did them a million times already. I wrongly assumed my Algebra II kids would be just as brilliant with 1/10th the exposure. Double whammy: a district curriculum quiz over transformations was given during this time frame and my scores were low. Better than last year, but low.
End result? We spent an entire day drilling transformation rules, visualizing them different ways, pointing all over the place and linear equations got dumped to this week. I gave a shorter test, and I'm ok with it. Can I speed back up now? Probably not. Here's where we stand 8 topics in:
Transformations and Parent Functions have only been tested once, so 4 would represent mastery for those two categories. Notice how transformations is low, and significantly lower in two of my three classes. I hestitate to wonder how bad it'd be if we didn't slow our roll.