Standards based grading has been a huge success for me. It's helping my students have conversations about success and becoming determined about showing improvement. Most of them have stopped talking about That Number. The number that I dislike. The one all the top kids in your class obsess over. 100. Ideally, it should all be about growth and feedback, but tradition dictates we give kids a number. They live and die by that number. See also: college, where sub-par teaching methods and the pursuit of 4.0 poisons just about everything.
AP culture feeds the beast. That GPA bonus is enticing. Surely extra credit must be offered. I NEED to have an A. If you can just give me two points mister, it's just two points!
I dislike it intensely. It takes a fantastic opportunity, exposure to high level curriculum, and turns it into a war for 100. How do you teach a group of Calculus kids, kids who have fought for 100 forever at this point, to forget about the stupid number and focus on learning for the sake of learning?
A few years ago I helped adapt my typical SBG approach to Calculus. Subdivide the class into topics, test each topic twice, honor the best score, and offer full replacement after school. Throw a six weeks exam in there to keep a little accountability. It didn't work. Sure, kids demonstrated improvement. But many blew off the initial attempt. TONS of them showed up after school to try and replace everything. All in pursuit of monkeys, er, 100.
This year? Reset button.
The first failure is trying to take Calculus and force it into nice little topics. After a two year experiment, it was pretty clear Calculus doesn't like being treated that way. It's a Big Ideas kind of class. It's primarily conceptual. Everything matters. You can't forget about September.
The second failure is removing too much accountability from the assessments. That after school thing was a crutch. Special rules had to be written.
The third failure was a disconnect between the assessment material and the design of the AP Exam. AP scores were terrible. Blowing off assessments probably didn't help. Seeing the format of the exam too late probably didn't help either.
What do we do?
Giant tests out of 100 are out of the question. Assessment needs to remain short and frequent. Reassessment should be available, but limited. Concepts matter. More accountability needs to exist. I should have the freedom to put anything and everything on them.
After a lot of discussion with a fellow Calculus teacher who wanted to do the same thing, we arrive at our current method. These are given once a week-ish.