This post is also crossposted on Medium.
Worms can make a mess, but they’re good for the soil. They break up compacted dirt and allow air to enter, helping new plants to take root and grow. So I guess I should thank standards-based learning and grading for opening up so many cans of worms in my classroom.
When I first heard about standards-based learning and grading in 2005, it was a no-brainer for me. Yes, we can’t keep doing it the old way — wow, we can’t keep doing it the old way.
And that was that. The rest, as they say, is history.
Not quite. What I didn’t realize was how many other aspects of teaching and learning would be disrupted by the standards-based approach. Frankly, it’s been a lot more than I bargained for. But it’s also put me in a much better position to embrace other educational trends that have come down the line.
So while SBL/SBG has caused me a lot more blood, sweat, and tears than I would have liked, it also allows me to understand and implement so many other new and exciting developments with less stress.
This is the first in a series of posts exploring the three cans of worms that standards-based learning opened up in my classroom. They are:
- The Carnegie credit vs. competency-based education
- Including behavior in the academic grade vs. positive behavior interventions and support
- One size fits all vs. choice and voice
Can #1: The Carnegie credit vs. competency-based education
Credit is the primary method of documenting that students have met the academic requirements of a course. When a student receives a passing grade for a class, credit is awarded and added to the student’s transcript.
The Carnegie unit, defined as 120 hours of instructional time (one hour per day, five days a week, for 24 weeks), is the primary standard upon which credit is awarded in the United States.
Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-born industrialist and philanthropist, didn’t invent the Carnegie credit. Efforts to standardize academic credit were well underway in the late 1800’s. But the standard credit was not widely adopted until the early 20th century, when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching began funding professors’ retirement pensions (now TIAA-CREF) — on the condition that they adopt Carnegie unit.
The problem with the Carnegie unit — and with seat-time methods of awarding credit in general — is that they measure the wrong end of the kid. Students with a D- are likely ill equipped to take the next course in the sequence, not to mention to apply those skills and concepts in the world, regardless of how long they’ve parked their rear in a classroom seat.