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Moving toward standard-based grading

Here’s a question I get too often from students: “If I do good on this assignment, will it raise my grade?”

And here’s another: “Can I do extra credit?”

Both questions indicate that my students don’t understand how they earn their grade. Although my grading system seems simple  to me (categories and points), it makes no sense to students. They just keep doing my assignments and hope that the computer spits out an A, B, or C.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to move to standard-based grading. There are many advantages: (1) It aligns better to student learning, (2) It puts more ownership on students, (3) It offers better information about a student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Although I know that standard-based grading is the way to go, I have not yet adopted it because I’m worried I can’t pull it off. Specifically, will PowerTeacher Gradebook let me do what I want to do? I don’t want to be in the middle of the semester and find out that I have to retreat.

And here are some other questions:

1. I teach English. Using standard-based grading is harder in English than it is in Math. I’ll have 10 standards for the semester, but I’m not sure how to calculate each standard’s score. Mean? Median? Mode? Most recent? For most of my standards, using a custom version of “most recent score,” though arbitrary, makes the most sense. But for other standards, mode or median seems more appropriate. I’m pretty sure I have to select one way of determining all standards grades.

2. What’s the best way to determine a student’s final grade? If there are 10 standards, I’d like to see how many standards each student mastered during the semester and then assign a grade accordingly. Does Gradebook allow this? Or would I have to override Gradebook’s calculation, which would lead to mass confusion for students and parents checking grades online?

How exactly does Gradebook calculate the final grade? Would it take all the standards scores and then do the mean, median, mode, or most recent?

I’ll try to find out these answers before I go forward with my plan, but the question is, Will I cave (again) and do something more comfortable?

Please share your brilliant insights!