Second Cut – Standards-Based Grading and the Next Generation Science Standards

Along with a colleague, I met with our new division chair on Monday to discuss our Standards-Based Grading (SBG) plans, and I was happy to discover that he (chair) had personally used SBG for the first time last year, just like myself.  He provided us with some excellent feedback on the form and function of our grading systems.  As a result, I modified my system, initially planning to make mostly changes in form, but finally making significant changes in function, too.

You can find the result of my first attempt to align my SBG system with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in my previous post.  Here is my second attempt for the same unit on Newton’s Laws (called Forces in previous post):

SBG – Newtons Laws r0

The purpose of this document is different from the first, so the form is significantly different.  This document — based on a very appealing form provided by our division chair — will be a handout to students at the beginning of the unit.  Students will be responsible for monitoring their progress toward meeting standards, based on feedback from the teacher, following assessments.  I really like this form, but I’ll probably use simpler spreadsheets for feedback from individual assessments.

Functionally, I decided that the standards in my first cut were not transformational enough.  I made this second cut after going through the process of designing standards for the material that precedes this unit.  The NGSS really doesn’t have any standards for the material that traditionally precedes Newton’s Laws in high school physics — introduction (e.g., scale, metric conversions, vectors) and kinematics.  Some of this material may eventually be covered in middle school, but for now, in our district at least, it is the responsibility of the high school physics teacher to provide this necessary background for Newton’s Laws.  So, I developed my own standards for the introductory material, using language from the NGSS (see my Foundational Skills unit here: SBG – Foundational Skills r2)

As a result of this revolutionary process, I decided to reduce the number of standards in the Newton’s Laws unit, and in my head I transformed the unit’s activities.  I have a lot of work to do yet, but I believe that my unit will be significantly different from last year, in a good way.  I also included a fairly detailed list to explain the expectations for each physics learning standard.  The explanatory list for each standard includes Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, Science and Engineering Practices, and/or Common Core (CCSS) standards.

In this second cut, each physics learning standard is more comprehensive than what I used last year, but I have begun to wrap my head around the process of applying these broad standards fairly.  As our new division chair said to us, “All grading is subjective,” but this is where professional judgment comes into play.

Another big change in this second cut is the elimination of separate grading categories for Core Concepts, Scientific Practices, and Literacy, which is what I used last year.  I’m still not sure about this, but having only one category, or really no categories, places the focus more squarely on physics.

Finally, you probably noticed the change in the grading levels – from a four-level system to a zero through five system.   This change was mandated by a new policy at our school, which I learned about on Monday.

So again I’m asking, what do you think?  Please share your ideas about the form and function of my system.  Thank you for your feedback and suggestions!


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