Bruno: Reframing The Debate About Standards-Based Grading
My post last week on standards-based grading generated a lot of feedback that helped me see a shortcoming in what I wrote. There are really two distinct camps of standards-based-grading advocates that I shouldn't have blurred together because I'm much more sympathetic to one than I am to the other.
One camp takes the position that content mastery is really the only thing that matters when formally reporting student outcomes. On this account other factors like how hard students worked or how well they behaved in class don't matter much (if at all) to the rest of the world and should matter to teachers only insofar as they contributed to mastery of the content.
The second camp of standards-based-grading advocates takes the position that report cards should contain more, and more useful, information. On this account it might make sense to include "behavior" or "citizenship" grades or marks on a report card, but they should be distinct from marks for academic mastery.
As for the second group, I don't actually disagree with the "more useful information" camp, although I haven't seen any proposals for better report cards that strike me as obvious improvements over the status quo. Traditional report cards are often ambiguous, but they are far from useless and I'm skeptical that providing considerably more detail about content mastery actually does much to minimize ambiguity or maximize usefulness.
More generally, if we acknowledge that information about factors other than mastery might be worth including on report cards, then arguably we are no longer talking about "standards-based grading"; we're just talking about report card reform.
And for the purpose of framing the conversation, I think "report card reform" is much more useful than "standards-based grading". Rather than starting with the peculiar assumption that absolute levels of content mastery are the be all and end all in schooling, the discussion should be motivated by the desire to maximize the usefulness of our educational institutions for all students, their families, and society as a whole. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)