Myth: Top performers might not be rewarded properly. PBL makes all students average.
Truth: Grades are not intended to reward performance; they are intended to report to students and parents on that student’s learning at a specific moment in time. PBL scores articulate what specific standards the student has mastered, which need more attention, and clearly point to what a student must address to move from non-proficient or approaching proficient to proficient or beyond proficient in particular course standards.
Myth: PBL does not motivate a broad portion of the students in the middle ranks to perform to the best of their ability. There is no penalty for late work, so students have little motivation to do any work until the quarter is about to end and it’s too late.
Truth: On the contrary, when students understand what is expected of them in terms of clearly articulated academic standards, and when they know they have multiple opportunities in multiple modalities to demonstrate their learning, they are embracing the power they have over their own education and the resulting grades.
Myth: Teachers spend more time analyzing rather than teaching.
Truth: PBL has forced some teachers to become familiar with state core standards and then assess – and, perhaps, later abandon – whether lessons, units, activities, tests, projects, assignments they have used for years relate to and increase mastery of the specific standards for which they are accountable.
Myth: Not all students test well and therefore using daily work and homework grades is a better assessment of a student’s true knowledge. (These don’t count in PBL). Students with test anxiety or other learning disabilities such as dyslexia generally need those daily assignments and homework to help them show progress.
Truth: It is true that not all students “test” (generally referring to traditional written tests) well. PBL embraces assessment opportunities in lieu of the traditional high stakes final/chapter test. Teachers comfortable with PBL score as assessments such things as exit cards, pair/share discussions, written explanations, essays, demonstrations, presentations, performances, etc. Test phobics, dyslexics, advanced learners, English learners, students with disabilities, gifted students – all are more successful when allowed to demonstrate their learning in more ways than exclusively and narrowly on “tests.” It is traditional teachers, not students, who have needed these daily assignments and homework to help them show student progress, though only in work completion and not in terms of growth in learning. PBL is based on the principle that homework and daily class work are opportunities for independent practice on a concept that the teacher introduced in the classroom; they are vehicles for teacher feedback on what the student is doing correctly and where he or she is making mistakes. That feedback needs to come in the form of conversation, example, commentary, visual cues; a single grade or score on practice work provides no productive feedback and does not prepare a student for eventual assessments on the concept or standard taught.
Myth: When students transfer out of the district how does the 1-4 scale convert?
Truth: Similar to Granite, many districts now use only numerical scores on report cards in grades K-8. Our elementary and junior high report cards clearly state that 1 represents not proficient, 2 – approaching proficient, 3 – proficient, and 4 – above proficient in state standards. This language need not be converted to anything else if a student transfers from our district to another. It indicates clearly what that student knows and is able to do in academic areas.
Myth: PBL, when used at the secondary level, hurts college admissions. There is absolutely no mathematical way to convert a 1 to 4 scale into a 0 to 100 scale and accurately capture whether or not our students have mastered that subject.
Truth: High school students (grades 9-12) still receive letter grades on their report cards. Granite’s PBL model automatically converts 1-4 scores on assessments to A-F letter grades. Letter grades are still required for NCAA athletic eligibility.
Myth: Colleges do not widely recognize PBL which will adversely affect our students when secondary schools use PBL.
Truth: This statement is completely inaccurate. Colleges and universities have been moving away from basing admission on GPA’s for many years. They are increasingly aware of the subjectivity inherent in traditional grading practices and today place far more emphasis on ACT/SAT scores, portfolios, service and humanitarian experiences, and course-taking patterns – honors, AP, concurrent enrollment classes – regardless of the grades. The Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) just published a new sliding for scale relevant to determination of all-state academic athletes that allows lower GPA scores the higher the student’s college placement test score, again reflecting distrust of traditional high school grades. Many colleges and universities have expressed their support of standards/proficiency-based grading systems in high schools, and we have been advised that Granite’s transcripts denoting PBL will be embraced by local higher ed institutions as more indicative of learning and college readiness than our past grading practices.
Myth: After many schools could not meet the passing requirements for their state standardized test required by No Child Left Behind Act, some states simply lowered their standards for passing. Isn’t PBL doing the same thing, but changing the grading system to reflect more students are in the average range of a 2 or 3?
Truth: No. PBL has nothing to do with NCLB accountability standards, and PBG grading does not “place” students in any range; it is not rooted in the traditional bell curve. All students, when familiarized with the standards they are expected to meet, given ample opportunity to demonstrate their learning, provided with feedback on progress and not punished by arbitrary deadlines, MAY, if they choose become proficient or beyond, depending on how hard they want to work at their learning.
Myth: With the 1-4 system based on a teacher’s assessment, how can you have consistency from school to school or classroom to classroom? With PBL, assessments become more subjective.
Truth: Our Curriculum and Instruction Department specialists are working with district teachers to create proficiency scales for every subject, every grade, and every course in Granite District. These scales clearly define and describe what proficiency looks like for every standard, creating consistency across the district. As long as teachers refer to these scales in creating their assessments, we will have unprecedented consistency in both expectations and student grading across the district.
Myth: Why is Granite school District wasting teachers and money to introduce a new grading system when the rest of the state does it differently?
Truth: Granite District is implementing a new grading system because it is in the best interest of students. Several of our neighboring districts are moving in that direction as well. Implementation of PBL has not required any new money, but it is making school more relevant to students, empowering them with control over their learning and ultimately their scores and grades, and communicating to both students and their parents exactly what it is that students know and are able to do academically and in relation to the prescribed Utah Core Standards. Based on some of your comments.