As you know, I separate my different standards into topics. At the end of the trimester I usually end up with 4 to 6 topics. These need to be combined into a single grade for our traditional A-F report card. At the end of the trimester I might have scores that look like this:
|Motion||Graphing||Forces||Forces in Fluids|
In my ideal world I could leave those as is. Throw some snazzy bullet graphs and charts onto the report card and send it on home.
I use a method called conjunctive scoring that I learned about in a Marzano book. The basic idea behind conjunctive scoring is that good scores can't make up for bad ones. No averages. This is how my scores are currently translated:
|Grade||Lowest score||At least one|
|F||less than 1.5|
So in my above example the student's final grade would be C because their lowest score is a 2.0.
|Motion||Graphing||Forces||Forces in Fluids|
This student would finish with a B because her lowest score is a 2.5 and she has at least one 3.
Clearly this is very different. There are no averages so it takes awhile for students to get it. You also really need to set aside time to circle back and allow students to go back and learn something they missed. This also requires a certain amount of balance in your topics. Obviously a killer topic can destroy grades. I would argue that some balance in the topics is something to strive for but there are ways to remedy this. The first year I tried SBG, the Motion topic killed kids because of all the math and because I just threw too much stuff into it. I tried to remedy this by separating out Graphing into a separate topic. That worked to chunk it a little more and helped focus my instruction.
I chose this method precisely because high scores wouldn't make up for lower ones. One of the problems with averaging is that you can accumulate enough points that the rest of the course is irrelevant.We've all had students who realize they're so far into A territory that they can coast the last few weeks of school. I've (hopefully) distilled my many, many standards into a few big ideas. In my view, it's ALL important. I like that a student can have all 4s and one 2 and she'll need to work those last few weeks on that one topic.
If the ultimate purpose of grades is to communicate, then an A should be clearly defined. If an A means a student has mastered or surpassed the standards set for the class, it follows that they should master or surpass every single one.
We're in our last week of school before the trimester ends and I always notice it's very focusing for a student to take a look at their concept scores, zero in on the lowest, and start working away at it. It's a lot more nebulous to say, "You need 8% more for a C."
There's also this interesting psychological component. If you look at the first example, she only needs to bring up two scores and she can immediately move from a C to an A. Mentally, students feel this is easier to obtain than needing 14% more or 150 more points to move up two grades. I'm sure it goes back to topic scores being more focusing than percentages.
How did I arrive at that scale?
It came through negotiation. My scale was slightly tougher last year. For example, I allowed only one 2.5 for a B. This year, another teacher is trying standards-based grading and we decided on a common scale. I'm reasonably happy with the new scale. There's an interesting passage in the blog I linked to earlier about what an A or B should mean in comparison to meeting standards. Those are the same arguments we had. We thought of it in terms of our state tests. Anyone with an A or B should be advanced or proficient and a C student should have a reasonably good shot.
What about non-academic scores?
I actually don't use them, but I have no problem with them. Again, ideally you'd want to keep those separate. Most schools have a citizenship grade or something similar, if you redefine that you're all set.
If you can't, you'll need to weight them. You would arrive at a score for your academic topics using the conjunctive method. For non-academic scores, the conjunctive method can be used, but in this case I think averaging is the way to go. Going back to the killer topic idea, imagine your non-academic scores are organization, participation, behavior, and work completion. There's really no reason for any of those to kill the entire non-academic score. For your final grade you take your academic score, let's say 90%, and weight it against your 10% non-academic. There are classes that would have much higher non-academic weights (P.E. comes to mind) but for the most part, keep the academic portion high.
The take home is that it's possible to translate your standards-based scores into a traditional letter grade and I'm reasonably happy with the outcome. If translating to a final grade is holding you back, I think conjunctive scoring is a good solution.