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Habits of Work Prepare Students for College

Standards-Based Grading

A parent, a student, a teacher, and the principal from Casco Bay High School in Portland, ME, discuss the merits of standards-based grading as they relate to achievement and college readiness.

This video accompanies the book Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming Schools through Student-Engaged Assessment.


- At Casco Bay, we have two different types of grades. We have the standard space grades, which we have been talking about, and we also have the habits of work grades, which shows all the habits of the worker, as in, if you meet your deadlines, if your-

- So it’s kind of about your effort? How hard you’re working to get the grade.

- Exactly.

- And I think we purposely separate those things out, because they are different things, and that in fact you can meet, some students can meet the standard. You get on and you riding a bike, why should I make you sit through 75 hours of little drills around bicycle riding, if you already know how to ride a bike? So we’re really reporting out on the work itself, on that skill, on that content, what you’ve achieved. And then, if you put in the habits of work, if you are working hard, we always provide more time. Because then it’s on us, then it’s our job to teach you. If you’re doing your job, then we need more time together to get you there.

- Last trimester, I got all, for my habits of work, I got, for my six classes, I got five threes, and I got one two. And the two was because I wasn’t studying, and I wasn’t doing my homework on time, and that’s the reason why. But in all my other classes I was, and you can see that by the grade that was shown.

- So would you say generally, that your habits of work grade correlate with your standard space grade? If your workin’ harder, you’re doin’ better in the class?

- And that’s the lesson that we wanna drill home to kids about a thousand times a day. ‘Cause there is a clear correlation. And the traditional system, those are blended. So if a kid gets an 83, you don’t know, they have an 83 ‘cause they know this stuff, kinda well, but aren’t tryin’ very hard, or are they tryin’ incredibly hard, and they don’t know the stuff, or they know all the stuff, and they’re a total slacker, ‘cause it just blends those. And to us, both grades are really equally important, and need to be separated out.

- Getting the three and how helps a lot in the standard space grades, because I’m allowed to revise on grades. Like in Ms. McCray’s class, if I didn’t do so well in my literary analysis, Then I was allowed to revise it, because I had a three in my how.

- The fact that the end of a trimester, if a student has a three of how, they get an incomplete for their trimester grade. They don’t get a one or two because, they’ve earned more time to meet those standards. If they had a two of how, then they get a two on their trimester report card, because their habits of work have not earned them additional time.

- It certainly seems to me that these students here are working way harder than I ever remember working in high school. And I feel like these guys are going to be fine in college. My daughter is going to be going to college next year. She probably will have a less traumatic freshman year than I had, trying to learn how to learn, because she’s got those skills from being here.

- We know that the colleges have been open to this system, and have accepted our kids in schools, from community colleges to most elite colleges around. Not because of our reporting system, but because the quality of the work the kids are doing, and the insistence that we have that, if a kid has met the standards, that means they know the stuff. And we think that that has earned some respect for our kids in the admissions process.

- I’d say a tangible benefit for having this grading system would be that it makes us smarter, and makes us more responsible even, because we’re getting our work done on time, we’re getting higher grades, because we know each and every subject well enough to pass with a good grade.

- I really love the relevance of it for the kids, and for us, as parents, we get to see what it is that she’s learning, and why she’s learning it, and that’s just really effective for us.

- I really do think that the whole system, ever since you first launched us on this journey, it’s transformed my teaching. Because I feel like I know what it is that I’m trying to teach. And that’s trickled down. Once that’s clear, that I have to figure that out, and it was hard to figure it out, and I had to figure out what is it that I’m trying to teach, and now that trickles down to every single step, what do I need to do to get kids there? And I’ve had to be super meticulous about each step, that I have to take, and have them join me, in those steps to get every kid there. My strength has been-

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