Thursday, May 3, 2012

Oh, Behave!

There are two broad categories of grading practices in the great wide world these days. One is termed "hodgepodge," referring to the mixing of student learning and behaviors (e.g., work ethic, attendance...) into a single score. The standards-based version of grading does not crunch scores for learning with student behaviors. There are variations within each category, of course. Even though this blog has modeled various ways to look at student data within a standards-based context, we've never considered options for visualizing student behavior. Time to change that.

I've built a model workbook that tracks four types of non-academic factors: attendance, work ethic, participation, and behavior. Each of the worksheets looks a lot like the gradebook. Names are on the left, but there is a series of dates across the top. There are six weeks (30 days) in the model.

Yeah, Baby

And, there's a reporting page which pulls information from each of the four worksheets. A data-validation dropdown menu for the "Last Name" automagically updates the sheet for each student. Here is what I'm thinking about for the display:

The top graph shows proportions. Attendance displays the number of days, the others the ratio of points earned. For the purposes of this tool, I've assumed that a four-point scale is available for each factor (work ethic, participation, behavior) each day. No points were assigned on days when the students were absent, as it is not possible to observe student behaviors when you aren't in the same room. The line graph below each stacked bar provides a sense of the 30-day trend. Gaps in the line represent days when the student was absent. Whatever was happening with Lucy here, looks like she had a real low point about mid-way through the grading period, but was starting to get back on track with her work ethic and participation by the end.

But I thought it might be interesting to consider the interaction between these factors...and a student's grade. So, the bottom of the report has a radar/spider/star chart. Most people are not fans of this type of graph. I'm a bit ambivalent about them, too. However, student achievement is not just about comparing categories, it's about looking for the confluence of all parts of learning to make decisions about instruction. To make the chart, I converted the total number of points earned in each category into a 4-point scale. I made up a summary grade.

So, here is Lucy's chart:

Lucy Van Pelt

Hmm. Lucy seems to have pretty good attendance and work ethic...but her grade isn't reflecting those strengths. Is her behavior in class keeping her from learning?

What about Dick Tracy, who appears to be living up to his name? Ahem.

Your name wouldn't happen to be "Dick," would it?

This looks like a student who could make a teacher pull his/her hair out. They show up nearly every day and act like a terror when they're there. What do we do about a problem like Dick Tracy? How do we channel his energy into something more productive?

For a final example, here's Flash Gordon.

Flash, ah-ah!

Good attendance, behavior, and work ethic...participation isn't great, but is happening. What's the deal with his grade?

In the next post, I'll lift the curtain and talk about some of formulas behind this beast, but if you're ready to play, you can download the workbook here. Let me know what you think about the graphs. Too much or too little information? Other ideas for the display?

Bonus Round
I've tried to give each student a story with the data. If you're looking for something to start some PLC conversations, you can also use the workbook that way.


  1. You know me. I LOVE this post and your graphics. But...I could use a little help from the Science Goddess treasure trove of "myth busts."

    You may know that I chose not to run again for the school board last May, and what do you know...teachers and parents came out of the woodwork this year (coincidence, I'm sure), and complained that our new Policy IK, separating academics from academic-related behaviors, was "confusing;" homework should count; teachers didn't know how to report on the behaviors (obviously they overlooked the comments section of the report card!); "hey, we don't have the software to separate things; and reporting in detail on behaviors puts "too much on the plate" because it takes too much time.

    I know...such stupidity is, well, stupefying. But do you have anything in your verbal quiver that would be useful in combating such doltishness?

    Again, this post is too cool for words!

  2. Having not seen all the enterprise level solutions for collecting and reporting student data, I don't have a particular suggestion that could address all of the points above.

    However, I think that we have to deal with the questions as best we can. If there's a reason for the pushback...what is it...and how do we address it in a way that everyone can live with?

    I worked in a district with "box counter" teachers, too. There were some legitimate concerns about workload. What can we do about it, that still leads to a good end for students? Is it finding ways to involve students? If we're not including the behaviors as part of the grade---can we have them take a moment at the end of each day/class to reflect and rate themselves? Or, do we just sample a few kids each week?

    How do we offer PD to support the transition to comments? Can we develop a bank or at least some sentence stems for teachers to pull from?

    Software-wise...that may be the one thing beyond a district's locus of control. Sure, we choose what we buy, but we aren't the programmers. We'll see the features we want when we demand it from the developers.

    I wish I knew The Answer!

  3. I am amazed at your level of understanding of excel and I love the use of this tool to track student's non-academic performances. I am wondering if you know of a way to account for a high number of absences on the report? Obviously, if a student is not in class, they do not receive any points. In essence, that is added in to the total points for the marking period as a zero. Is there a way to modify the point levels on the report that only accounts for days that the student is present? For example, can you put a percentage of days present to equal to a level 1, 2, 3, or 4?

    As I proof read what I wrote, I am not sure that I am really clear in what I am asking. Hopefully you can decipher what I mean. If you can let me know if it is possible and how to do it, it would be much appreciated.

  4. Hi, Jason---thanks for the kind words. It took me awhile (my apologies), but I posted an answer to your question here.