“…repeated, direct assessment of targeted skills in basic areas using materials taken directly from the teaching curriculum”
While CBA is assessment based on the curriculum, it isn’t chapter tests from a text. The latter measures student achievement of a particular set of lesson knowledge while the former measures student achievement of the broader class goals. CBAs are useful not only to measure student learning within a unit but over time toward larger goals.
How does it work
There is no setup required to start using CBA — no website signup or software download. What you will have to do — and may already do — is identify the criterion you are committed to accomplishing with students. These will be beyond what is required of the State or National standards and may or may not align perfectly with the textbooks you use. They are developed by you, likely in conjunction with grade-level teammates and your school administration. They help you identify your goals and the resources required to achieve them and then measure progress toward their completion.
Once these are in place, you devise the assessments — formative and summative — that will provide the evidence of achievement. This is done exactly as you would normally develop assessments during a unit of inquiry to evaluate progress and — at the end of the unit — to evaluate success with one big difference: Curriculum based assessments evaluate progress toward broad learning goals rather than textbook chapters or lesson plans.
You continue to teach classes as you normally would, with lesson plans, projects, and resources aimed to teach critical standards laid out by the school, the State, or the nation. These may be augmented with a scope of criterion — sometimes replaced with a Scope and Sequence or Curriculum Map — to be used as references in measuring learning. Here you will carefully identify the criterion CBA will use to provide and measure evidence of learning. These can be 1) measured against what is expected (called “benchmarks”), or 2) measured against prior assessments.
Last year, only 61 percent of students who took the ACT high school English achievement test were deemed college-ready. In math, it was even worse — only 41 percent. Without doubt, we teachers recognize this as a problem but what do we do about it? An option several school districts I converse with are trying is called “mastery-based learning” — MBL. When I read this article about it, I got pretty excited. This could be a solution, if not for all students, at least for those who don’t excel under traditional teaching.
What is MBL
Also known as “competency-based learning” or “proficiency-based learning”, mastery-based learning is described by The Glossary of Education Reform as:
“a system “of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting … based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education.”
Learning is personalized, based on school standards. Students who don’t understand a topic and don’t do well on the summative assessment for that subject, aren’t automatically moved on because time allotted for that topic ran out. Instead, they are given additional support and then retested until they have the skills to move on to the next stage.
Last year, only 61 percent of high school students who took the ACT English achievement test were deemed college-ready. In math, it was 41 percent. We teachers recognize it is our fiduciary responsibility to fulfill state and national education standards that prepare students for college or career. Many of us find students benefit greatly when the school employs curriculum-based assessments to measure progress. Why? Because by teaching, assessing knowledge, tracking progress, and personalizing to student needs, we can determine if students are accomplishing what they must to complete the work of learning.
Unfortunately, most textbooks offer no easy way to measure overall progress toward completing state or national standards, nor do they backfill for a lack of knowledge. Both of these are critical pieces to the successful accomplishment of learning goals.
This is where Mastery Education’s Measuring Up can help.
What is Measuring Up?
Measuring Up is a suite of tools that supplements any classroom curriculum by offering standards-based instruction, practice, assessment, and reporting customized to many state or national standards–with the singular goal of assisting students in meeting English Language Arts, Mathematics, and/or Science standards.
How many times have you experienced teachers who based report card grades on how well students complete classwork, homework, and quizzes? They mistakenly conflate these exemplars with learning. For example, a book report may require a certain number of written (or typed) pages or paragraphs rather than evidence that the student drew conclusions and summarized knowledge.
That’s changing. Today, many educators want to not only evaluate progress at a point in time but optimize that against the ongoing standards their school mission is built on such as Common Core, International Baccalaureate, NGSE, or TEKS.
What is Standards-based Grading
To accomplish this, many schools and Districts have turned to Standards-based Grading. According to Tomlinson and McTighe, standards-based grading (SBG) “measures student proficiency on well-defined course objectives.” This means students have clear guidelines for how to define success over time, making it easy for all stakeholders in a student’s learning to determine if they are accomplishing what must be done for college and career. It de-emphasizes subjectivity by providing an objective delineation of requirements.
Here’s a good four-minute video overview of SBG:
Humanities Teachers, Rejoice!
English Language Arts and social studies standards are often tangled webs of both skills and content, not so easily separated. This guide clears common misconception and offers best practices.
Standards-based grading (SBG) is a paradigm shift for teachers accustomed to traditional curriculum frameworks, but that transition can be more extreme for ELA and social studies. While conventional STEM courses are planned around sequential, discrete standards targeting easily-isolated skills, language arts and social studies standards are often tangled webs of both skills and content, not so easily separated.
This inherent challenge further amplifies common misconceptions about standards-based (or competency-based) grading. This guide clears those misconceptions and offers best practices for language arts and social studies teachers seeking to adopt the standards-based grading practice and mindset.
Download our Standards-Based Grading guide
The popularity of standards-based grading and instruction is growing. Why? It’s because the one-size-fits-all concept of a single grade representing the fullness of the students’ work is flawed. Today, teachers want to call out student strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and areas of improvement, as aligned with the standards that their school mission is built on. That requires a detailed picture of what students have learned.
The problem is: This is time-consuming. Teachers must itemize tasks and work, attach them to relevant standards, monitor each student’s progress toward the goal of achieving the standards, and remediate when they need help. For many teachers, this is overwhelming. The ideal would be to have all assignments, assessment, and submittals for each student curated in one spot that automatically updates as the year progresses–and provides actionable reports.
Happily, there is such a program. It’s called Kiddom.
Kiddom is a free standards-based platform designed to help teachers curate individual learning experiences. Its pages are visual and easy-to-understand, enabling teachers to quickly determine how students are doing and where remediation is needed–all without spending a lot of time analyzing data. Many of the details are linked, allowing you to dig deeper on any subject from a variety of pages rather than one specific spot.
Here are details you’ll like:
Lesson planning used to mean filling in boxes on a standard form with materials, goals, expectations, assessments–details like that. Certainly this is valuable information, but today’s lesson plans–like today’s lessons–demand less rote fill-in-the-blanks and more conceptualization, critical thinking, and collaboration. With the increased reliance on online resources, Skype interviews with professionals, and hands-on learning activities, lessons are no longer taught within four walls so they shouldn’t be planned that way. They need collaboration with all stakeholders from initial planning stage to revision and rewrite.
And that paper form that was copied in triplicate–now it’s an online tool that can be accessed, edited, appended, and viewed by everyone involved. In fact, it can be one of three tools, depending upon how your brain organizes ideas:
- mindmap–for those who love to throw everything out there on a canvas and arrange
- online planner–for those who fill in boxes with required information and want the lesson plan to appear fully formed from these ideas
- spreadsheet–for those who like to build from the ground up and have the lesson plan detailed and scalable–in a structured way
I’ve tried all of these and have found three favorite tools, one from each category, that work for me. Read through these, try them out, and then add a comment with what you think: