Frequently asked questions

What does EBR mean?


EBR stands for Evidence-Based Reporting, where teachers collect and use a body of evidence to determine student achievement towards a set of standards.




Are the targets in kid friendly language and do all parties understand the targets?


Targets will be made clear to students as they enter a class. They will know, by all means, how they are being evaluated in accordance with each standard/target.




Does my child still receive letter grades?


Yes - at the end of each class, students will still receive an A, B, C, D, or F.




How does this affect getting into college?


Since the grades given will be the same, this should not have any effect on how colleges view our transcripts.




Why the change? Isn’t what we have working now


There are many reasons as to why we are changing. Here are a few: 1. We need to unify our grading practices (many teachers use different grading methods in our building). 2. We believe students learn at different rates - time should be the variable, not learning. 3. We believe simply knowing content does NOT prepare us for the real world. MVMS and MVHS students must learn transferable skills to prepare for a post-secondary education, a career, and the ever-changing world. 4. We don’t believe late work, extra credit, attendance, etc. should be factored into a grade reflecting my knowledge of the content/course. 5. We want to create students that can think on their feet, know how to communicate well, have high self-efficacy, etc.




Are there retakes?


Each target will need to be assessed at least 3-5 times for a teacher to have enough evidence to determine a grade. We call those re-performances. They are built into the curriculum. If a teacher wants to give a retake on a specific assessment, that is their choice (it is not required).




What does “evidence” look like?


Evidence will collected from 3-5 assessments in the form of mastery experiences. They might be projects, tests, presentations, displays, papers, etc - whatever will give our teachers an appropriate demonstration/display of student achievement against a target/standard.




How does final exam fit?


A teacher may or may not decide to give a “final” exam. If so, the teacher would look for a pattern with the evidence of the targets being assessed. If a student has shown growth but not sustained levels of mastery...or in other words if they had a "1" in a target, then "2", then a "3" on the final, this would be considered a sustained pattern of growth and this student would deserve the "3". The same is true in reverse. If a student who had a target as a "4", then a "4", then a "3", then a "2" and then a "2" on the final, this student deserves a "2" because he/she did not have a sustained pattern of growth, nor a sustained level of mastery.




What do the numbers mean (4, 3, 2, 1)?


These are QUALITATIVE descriptions of student learning.
4 - Mastery (exceeds proficiency)
3 - Proficient
2 - Approaching proficiency
1 - Beginning proficiency




Will teachers teach everything they used to teach?


Pacing must be negotiated here as the dynamic of instruction will shift from content delivery and rote repetition to a reflection/feedback based environment. This can be tricky as most teachers are still in a traditional mindset of "I need to make sure I know where each student is" when in EBR it becomes, "I need to make sure you know where you are at." Instruction is now simply creating reflective spaces for students to organize thoughts and feedback into proficiency patterns that can be used to grow academically.




How do kids know how many times to retake?


If teachers give retakes, they will communicate a performance timeline. They will tell the students they have from Point A to Point B to retake...after that, the window is closed.




What does feedback look like?


Feedback should be: the communication of patterns of proficiency, or lack thereof in a student's work. It is the response to student work to help them see where they are in relation to the target.




What is the advantage of EBR?


Improved communication and additional feedback for parents, students, and teachers - 1. Parents and students will see areas of academic strength and weaknesses in the grade book rather than seeing a test score or homework assignment and wondering what the next steps might be. 2. Teachers will know which standards they need to re-teach. 3. Students will know which standards they need additional learning opportunities and/or practice. 4. Supports “assessment for learning,” one of the five characteristics of effective instruction from the Iowa Department of Education’s “Iowa Core” initiative. Assessment for learning means assessments are given for the purpose of identifying future learning opportunities/activities for students. Increase in self-efficacy - the confidence of oneself that they can hit a target or goal.

Students learn valuable skills that will transfer far beyond any content area.




What is the difference between traditional grading practices and evidence-based grading?


Traditional Grading System

  1. Based on assessment methods (quizzes, tests, homework, projects, etc.). One grade/entry is given per assessment.
  2. Assessments are based on a percentage system. Criteria for success may be unclear.
  3. Use an uncertain mix of assessment, achievement, effort and behavior to determine the final grade. May use late penalties and extra credit.
  4. Everything goes in the grade book - regardless of purpose.
  5. Include every score, regardless of when it was collected. Assessments record the average - not the best - work.
Evidence-Based Grading System
  1. Based on learning goals and performance standards. One grade/entry is given per learning goal.
  2. Standards are criterion or proficiency-based. Criteria and targets are made available to students ahead of time.
  3. Measures achievement only OR separates achievement from effort/behavior. No penalties or extra credit given.
  4. Selected assessments (tests, quizzes, projects, etc.) are used for grading purposes.
  5. Emphasize the most recent evidence of learning when grading.
Adapted from O’Connor K (2002). How to Grade for Learning: Linking grades to standards (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press Secondary purposes of evidence based reporting include:
  • providing feedback to students for self-assessment and growth
  • encouraging student progress and self-monitoring of learning




What are some core values of evidence-based grading?


  1. Entries in the grade book that count towards the final grade will be limited to course or grade level standards.
  2. Extra credit will not be given at any time.
  3. Students will be allowed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of classroom standards in various ways.
  4. Teachers will determine grade book entries by considering multiple points of data emphasizing the most recent data and provide evidence to support their determination (“body of work with consideration for growth”).
  5. Students will be provided multiple opportunities to practice standards independently through homework or other class work. Practice assignments and activities will be consistent with classroom standards for the purpose of providing feedback. Practice assignments, including homework, will not be included as part of the final grade.




Do the students have a deep understanding of the standards for which they are being assessed on?


It is the teachers’ responsibility to ensure that standards are written in “kid friendly” language and are clearly posted/evident to students. A standards-based system allows for a more aligned and clear focus on specific learning targets for the course.




Are the standards weighted?


No




How do group work projects translate into the standards- the types of skills needed to work collaboratively solve problems, etc?


Group projects are assessed similar to how teachers graded group projects in the past. Students are assessed on rubrics and may be graded individually or as a group (depending on what the standard is). Most of the time, teachers will be able to assess individuals in a group to determine proficiency of the targets. Process standards (collaboration, timeliness, group norms) may be built into the rubric.




What kind of feedback is given besides the score in the grade book?


Feedback takes many forms. Teachers give feedback both verbally and in written form. Most formative work will receive timely feedback to help students see where they are at in relation to the target.




How do colleges feel about EBR?


Colleges want grade point average to be an accurate reflection of student learning and understanding. The colleges and universities we spoke with do not have knowledge of standards based grading. *See our EBR and College Admissions page for more information.




Is there a problem transferring EBR to college for acceptance?


No




What research is there regarding grade distribution? I've heard there will be no B’s in some teachers classes just A, C, D, F- that seems harsh to the student that is above proficient. Please explain further.


There are definitely B's given for a final grade (if a student earns all 3's and 4's with one 2). From Stevenson High School: “Grade data in our district has shown an increase in 4% of A’s and a slight decrease of students earning B’s, and C’s. There has been little to no change in the amount of D’s and F’s. Grade distribution should remain unchanged. However, more students can earn A’s in class by taking advantage of re-performances.”




How does EBR transition students into the college grading system? Here they get to reassess but college is typically “one and done”.


We want to be clear - while under our guidance, we want students to know as much as they can know and be as prepared as they can be before they leave MVHS. We would much rather teach and model responsibility here in HS rather than punish for it. Each professor and college class uses a different grading system. While reassessments are a part of standards-based grading, this will ensure that students understand the learning process and can master the material while under our care.




Does it help students be prepared for college?


Being a better communicator, identifying one's strengths and weaknesses as a learner, being self-motivated to meet course objectives, developing strong study habits, having high self-efficacy, developing a focus on learning, and mastering course standards are all aspects of this system that will help students in college.




How does the participation in extracurricular activities work? Eligibility?


No change.




Are there any research results that show EBR is helping students learn more than traditional grading?


Since this is more a means of reporting and philosophy on how we approach assessment in general, we won’t likely see “A causes B” to happen; however, here is a comprehensive list of articles and books from major researchers listed at this link:
https://docs.google.com/a/solon.k12.ia.us/document/d/1joKyXSX0Cbb4OcEawsXu-sOvgVYf3-KwhFXAlMRd0E8/pub (Matt Townsley)




I feel like it’s difficult to get a grasp on how my son is doing in a class until the class is nearly half over. With essentially no grades in PowerSchool during the first month of classes, I don’t know if he’s doing what he needs, is sloughing off, struggling, etc. And he doesn’t seem to know when I ask him. Can you give us suggestions on what to do?


First, your child should know what the expectation is in class. This will be and is made clear through a syllabus and is similar to every class at MVHS. Second, this is a good time to email the teacher to communicate about class progress. Most problems like this can be resolved with teacher/parent/student communication. Third, our website will allow to see evidence towards every standard and target to help understand where students are at.




I’ve heard there may be more D’s and F’s at times?


Because there are reperformances built into the curriculum (and students can re-assess in some classes), more students may have D’s and F’s at some point during the course. This is a good process for the student as it shows that mastery of a standard will take time and not happen all at once. It also teaches students the value of practice/homework. Students have the ability to re-perform at a later date - in the end schools are not seeing an overall increase in the amount of D’s and F’s.




Should attendance, effort and completion of homework be rewarded?


Yes, those things are important. However, they should not be graded. These are behaviors, not learning targets. As a result, teachers have the ability to build work-readiness skills, task completion, and due dates as 21st century skills when creating rubrics.




Are all teachers using the same rules?


EBR is consistent across the building with all teachers using the same assessment rubric (4 point scale) and common grading scale. Opportunities to reassess may look different along with the way teachers assess.




If a student is given opportunity to “reassess” on a topic - and the class continues to move on - how is understanding (and frustration) for both current and past information handled?


Reassessment is one of the most difficult parts of a standards-based system. Students have to work with the teacher to reassess and at the same time keep up with current material. This can be done before or after school, or, more conveniently, during our MTSS time in which we need to utilize for re-teaching and re-performing.




What does proficient equate to?


We are defining proficiency as “demonstrating a thorough understanding of a course or grade level standard.”




Grades and points have been used for a long time, as long as I can remember. There’s strong research and evidence for grades accurately representing learning, correct?


There is little to no evidence to support traditional grading practices. It was a system designed for our country at a different time in history. You can find a list of published journal articles and authors at this link.




Since some departments may allow forms of reassessment throughout the course, don’t you find kids coasting through the first part of the course?


Initially, this may be the case (as it was with Stevenson). To protect our teachers, we require students to complete the homework and/or have some type of re-teaching session with the teacher during MTSS or before/after school. Also, reassessments may be time sensitive meaning that students have a limited window of time to reassess (depending on the class). And a reminder, re-performances are built into each class, so some departments may choose to not allow reassessments.




Are teachers expecting kids to motivate themselves to do the practice and re-assess, or do they give kids feedback regularly about where their grade are?


Both. Teachers should give regular feedback but the feedback is designed to help the student understand his/her current level of understanding on the course or grade level standard. Students will need to learn to develop the motivation to improve in their weak areas.




What is the window for reassessments? Do they have the whole quarter to reassess?


This depends on what the teacher has established as part of his/her reassessment policy.




How does teacher decide what is proficient?


This is something that is vetted by the entire departmental PLC. Targets with proficiency scales are used to help a teacher/student/parent understand where the student is, objectively, in relation to the target. It should be noted that the teacher does not decide, the assessment decides. Therefore, teachers must create authentic assessments.




How can you avoid having opinions weigh in on grades? (Subjectivity)


By creating clearly articulated learning gradations that are aligned to the course standards, all vetted by the department or team.




Isn’t grading totally subjective?


This is another common misconception. Using a scale with 100 points (as a traditional system might) has 100 gradients of subjectivity. Using a scale with 5 gradients (4 point scale) limits teacher subjectivity. For example, have someone explain the difference, in regards to student learning, between a student scoring a 91 on a traditional graded test and and 89.




How do I know if my child is being challenged?


Some of the brightest learners will hopefully enjoy the new system because it leads to greater differentiation and an extension of course standards.




In EBR students see a grade trajectory, how do students know how they are doing in the course without a definite letter grade?


In EBR the focus is on learning standards and proficiency therefore the focus on a letter grade is lessened. Also they see proficiency standards and the corresponding proficiency scores (4,3,2,1). Based on this information a student then receives a GRADE TRAJECTORY. Using all of these data points the student as well as the parent or guardian can confidently identify strengths and weaknesses as well as determine a letter grade.




With EBR, is there a higher chance for failure?


While there is actually a less chance of failure, there is high volatility in the grade trajectory, meaning students grades are not locked in until there is a clear pattern of learning. In EBR students, parents and teachers must expect this to happen and understand that the grade trajectory may fluctuate from an A/B to a D/F until a clear pattern emerges and the grade trajectory is on a steady arc....indicating a clear letter grade.




How does EBR affect “at-risk” students?


Students who are “at-risk,” or who may have learning difficulties, are often punished more so in traditional grading than anything else. If a student falls behind and receives a zero, the amount of achievement on the next assignments is so great that the student sometimes doesn’t feel he/she can catch up, thus giving up. From the mouths of such students and their teachers, we hear about how EBR and a standards-based system gives all kids a chance to learn at different rates. If a student falls behind and doesn’t quite “get it” the first time, we have catch-measures in place to help them be successful. EBR doesn’t punish them if they don’t get it the first time.





MVCSD Mission:

Fostering growth and confidence as learners and people.

 

MVCSD Vision:

Through effective and intentional collaboration, the Mount Vernon Community School District will develop clear goals that outline the steps needed to be an exemplary district of choice.