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Standard Based Grading in Spanish class

How to Start Standard Based Grading in Spanish class

I have had a few questions lately about how I grade, so I figured it was time for a post. With a change in methods, how I asses has naturally changed. A couple year ago I switched to grading my modes of communication (Interpersonal Speaking, Presentational Writing and Interpretive Reading, and Interpretive Listening). At the time I also had a 10% category for Culture, which included Real World Choice Work. Switching to these categories, really helped me focus on WHAT I was assessing. If an assignment did not fit a category, should I really have been assigning it? This helped me finally fully move away from quizzes that focused on grammar or vocabulary because they did not fit any certain communicative focus! It also helped me cut the cord to giving a grade for a craftivity such as the piñata


How to start Standards Based Grading (SBG) in Spanish Class



When I came back from maternity leave my school was working on making a shift to standards based grading (SBG). I decided that second semester I would give it a go. Since our grade book is still set up traditionally, I know our modified approach may not please those doing pure SBG, but I figured I would show you what I am doing during our transition. Here are the main ideas that I am currently using to show student's mastery:


  • Essential Standards are used as equally weighted categories - To try and keep it simple I started with just the following 4 categories. I am debating adding back in a culture category, but the issue is I am not sure how I would assess it. 
    • Interpersonal Speaking 
    • Interpretive Reading
    • Interpretive Listening
    • Presentational Writing (I used to do presentational that also included speaking, but when in life will a student need to make a presentation to a room of people in Spanish?!?!)
  • 4 point grade scale - Everything is given a 4, 3, 2, or 1 as the grade. To pacify the traditional grade book they are as follows 4-A, 3-B, 2-C, 1-D. 
    • 4 - exceeds expectations 
    • 3 - meets expectations
    • 2 - approaching expectations
    • 1 - below expectations  
  • For most assessments, these are actually translated to performance based rubric using proficiency levels. For example on a writing assessment in the end of Spanish 2, the meets expectations (3) was a novice high. This means the grading was as follows 4 - Intermediate Low, 3 - Novice High, 2 - Novice Mid, 1 - Novice Low. I had been using this style of grading for a while, but did need to remove the +/- from the grades. This post from Creative Language Class does a grade job explaining assigning a grade to a proficiency based rubric. Actually the rubric they use is my favorite as well. 
How to start Standards Based Grading (SBG) in Spanish Class
this is taken from my class syllabus
  • Retakes are allowed on everything - Since the point is to show mastery of the standard, or in my case a performance of the goal proficiency level, students may retake any summative assessment that they do not earn a 4 on. My policy is that students must email me with the following: what assessment they want to do, when they plan to take it (before or after school or during a study hall) and what they have done to improve since their last attempt. Very few students actually take advantage of the ability to retake, but I think a lot of that goes with the climate of my school, where many students are just looking to meet expectations and are working towards community college. 
  • Only summative assessment grades - This means that formative practice does not go towards the final grade. It can be entered in a 0 weighted category for students and parents to see what has been completed, but just doing the worksheet does not get you "points." This means that instead of students "playing school" just turning in junk, they actually show what they know in assessments. This also means there is no "participation" grade. Here are ideas in my post how to assess a novel


Reflections on SBG

Just like with any change there was some push back to start from students, but it helps that the English department is also using SBG as well. At first some students who like the cushion, were upset that they did not "get points" from doing in class work. Later, it was awesome that students would take risks in their practice, knowing that they would not be counted off for anything being "wrong." I love the shift in conversation and hearing students tell others that if they want to move to intermediate, they need to expand their sentences and topics more. Like everything it is a work in progress, but I like not having to grade busywork and instead focusing on less, but more meaningful assessments. 

I have my own Google sheets workbook, with tabs for each class, where I record their scores on each assessment. Since our grade book does not play nice with SBG, these are then entered as 95,85,75,65 for 4,3,2,1. We also have the option of a 4+ (exceeding exceeds expectations:) which is entered as a 100, just to try and balance with the 100 point electronic grade book. Below is a snippet from my Google sheet grades. 
How to start Standards Based Grading (SBG) in Spanish Class
Standard based grade book spread sheet


I have updated my Syllabus to reflect standard based grading as well. If you had downloaded it in the past, download it again for the new versions. 

Spanish Class Syllabus


Do you use Standards Based Grading? What tips do you have for me? What challenges are you facing?

16 comments

  1. When you write, " I am debating adding back in a culture category, but the issue is I am not sure how I would assess it," I think one option is to make culture part and parcel of presentational and interpersonal work. Laura Terrill's rubric even includes the domain "knowledge of target culture," which really helps focus students on demonstrating that knowledge when they write and speak. This also encourages students to dig deeply into authentic resources to make sure they'll have plenty of target culture knowledge to share when the time comes.

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  2. Do you give homework? If so, how do you get students to complete it if it is not for a grade?

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    1. The only homework is what they do not finish in class. To be honest, some will not do it because there is no grade attached, just like some do not do it even if there is a grade attached. Most realize that the practice in class is what they need to be successful on their assessments. It takes some shifting in the mindset.

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  3. I think when one tries to add culture as a grade, it can be reduced to tasks in English. Standards-bases grading focuses on student performance in the modes. Culture as well as connections and comparsions are parts od the content and context for stud not performance in the target language.

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    1. Thank you! This makes me fee a lot better!

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  4. My only problem with a 4 point scale was my students didn't think points meant anything (so they wouldn't do the work).

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  5. Hello Allison! Your blog has been especially helpful to me this summer as I prepare to implement SBG in my classroom this school year! I am having a hard time trying to decide my learning targets for each level. I teach 1-4 and like I said, they have never experienced SBG before. My level 1 kids have only had a quarter of exploratory Spanish. What are your thoughts of where I should start them out in terms of a target proficiency level? Thanks for your input, and your awesome blog : )

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    1. I am starting my level 1 with
      4 - novice mid+ (exceeds)
      3 - novice mid (meets)
      2 - novice low+
      1 - novice low

      later it will be novice high is 4 exceeds, and move down the line.

      I do not know if there is a "right" answer, but that is what I am doing right now in week 1

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    2. ook I like this. I guess I was struggling with starting out with the meeting expectation = novice low, but the + gives more options to work a little in between levels. How often do you bump up the target proficiency during the school year?

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    3. I usually do not do in between levels, but the very start of the year is an exception. I usually only bump up around semester. But. honestly I see where the majority of the kids are at and do not want them all to drown.

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    4. Ok, I gotcha. Thank you so much for your input! I really appreciate your help!! Have a great school year!!

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  6. This blog has been lifesaving for me as a department-of-one, rural/isolated Spanish teacher! I've inherited a range of abilities in a variety of classes this year (native speakers in Spanish 1, never-evers in Spanish 3, etc.) and I am committed to SBG.

    - Is there a good way to assess students to figure out what proficiency level they are supposed to be at?
    - Can you have different proficiency levels in the same class? How have you dealt with this in the past?

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    1. Beth,

      Thank you for your kind words!
      As for assessments, I would suggest working with a performance based assess rubric to assess students where they are. I do not think there is any certain rule about where they are "supposed to be at."I have seen many variations of at the end of level 1 they should be at this level and at the end of 2 this level, but you have to meet your students where they are. It is not realistic in my opinion to just set an arbitrary level and then have barely anyone meeting expectations. I believe in high expectations, but they need to be realistic.

      There will always be different proficiency levels in any class. For example if in Spanish 1 to meet expectations the performance must be novice mid (3), I will have students scoring novice low (2 approaching expectations) & novice high (4 exceeding). Then the goal is to get everyone to your standard of meeting expectations.
      I have a mixed Spanish 3/4 class, so the met expectations for the 4 is one level higher than the 3. That is the only time I have had different meets expectations standards.

      I hope that answered your questions!

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    2. Thanks Allison, that is super helpful! Is it challenging to maintain consistency as well as differentiation at the same time in your mixed class with different expectations? Any suggestions for making this happen?

      Thank you so much!

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  7. Do you have a copy of the rubrics you use to grade them?

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