#sblbookclub June 2019 Update

A few months ago I was starting to reflect on the 2018-2019 school year and starting to think about the changes I needed to make. I had tried going more assessment based with my SBG classroom and wasn't as happy with the results as I had been the previous year when I did reflective SBG. I wanted to be able to discuss grading practices with other teachers at all different places in the process of reforming their grading practices: teachers who had years of experience, teachers who were just starting to consider it, and even teachers who were skeptical.

So I created the #sblbooklcub, I picked three books to explore over three months and created a Google Classroom. I posted to Twitter and it sort of took off from there. We are two weeks into the book club and I have to say, this experience reminds me why teachers are so much better at what we do when we work together.

I feel most like a professional in my field when I can engage in reflection and discussions around practices with te…

Reflecting on the 18-19 School Year: Grading Practices

If you've read my blog before, you know I mostly write about my experiences trying to reform grading practices in my traditional world history classroom in order to help increase equity and student motivation. Over the past few years, I have tried different formats of Standards-Based or Standards-Referenced learning and grading all within the limitations of a traditional online grade book and strict reporting windows.

When I first started the grade reform journey I did not know I would end up going standards-based and what I eventually settled on was something called Reflective Standards-Based Grading. In this type of grading, you work towards learning objectives and students self-assess on those learning objectives with a clear rubric for each standard. They must provide evidence of mastery when they self assess which is typically classwork, quizzes, tests, essays, or projects. They turn this in for summative assessment and are given feedback if they do not achieve mastery of th…


I tweeted a late night thought this week that I really didn't think anyone would notice. It's a tweet I almost deleted because I was afraid people would take it the wrong way, I was worried that it would be misunderstood and it was literally a tweet about my actions being misunderstood.

Sometimes I worry that sharing the ‘wins’ in my class comes across as bragging but really I LOVE when other Ts share the things that go well in their class or the amazing things they’ve tried! I learn so much from celebrating the success of other teachers. Let’s all keep sharing! — Mrs. Byars 🌎 👩‍🏫 (@mrsbyarshistory) March 26, 2019
I did not expect the number of retweets, comments, or likes this tweet would get and the response to it has left me feeling two very different things. First, I feel uplifted by the support of #edutwitter to continue sharing out the things that happen in my classroom, the lessons I create, and the work I am doing. And at the same time, I also feel really dishearte…

Favorite Books on Grading Practices and Grade Reform

Over the past several years I have read a lot of books and articles on grading practices and while I have written a lot about what I am doing in my classroom I feel the need to share some of the books that inspired me and still help me on the path to more equitable grading practices that encourage learning over points. So today, here are three books that helped me establish my grading practices. 
Rethinking Grading by Cathy Vatterott 
This book remains one of my favorites. It is published by ASCD which is an organization that has tons of resources on grading practices and assessment. Vatterott does an incredible job of addressing the culture, why, and how of grading practices and has the research and examples to back her claims. This book does an excellent job of explaining how going standards-based means you don't just shift how you grade, you also have to shift how you teach. 
"Standards-based grading is not just about changing grading—it's a complete overhaul of the te…

Take A Nap And Then Level Up: A Post About Scale and Innovation

It is the week before Spring Break and my students and I are hitting that annual frenzy and exhaustion that usually hits hardest those last 5 days before we get one whole week off. In planning this week, I knew I needed to level up, I needed to bring something exciting and engaging while also ensuring my students were learning and reviewing content and skills. I knew I needed something fresh, high energy, and out of the box.

So I turned to Twitter and saw so many amazing and inspiring things:
Ready to change the game in your classroom? #QRBreakIN puts a high energy twist on old school centers. Shout out to @gimkit and @quizizz in this video as teams work together to crack the codes and level up their superhero teams! Feeling the #EDrenaline Rush with — John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) March 21, 2019
First, there is this guy, John Meehan does these AMAZING lessons called #QRBreakIN that take the board games students know and love and level them up into a s…

Access and Equity: The Time For Devices is Now

When I talk about the reasons I am passionate about using technology in my classroom, I almost always list things related to pedagogy and engagement. But the reality is there is a new skills gap that has to be addressed when we talk about making students college and career ready and the only way to really address this growing divide is by ensuring students have consistent and equitable access to devices in their classrooms.

Technology integration in the classroom allows for more personalized learning, it allows students to be more connected globally, it increases collaboration and student interaction, and it prepares our students with the skills they need for the workforce, college, and beyond. A recent analysis of over 54 million employee profiles, across 350 industries determined that the ability to wrangle or navigate new technology was one of the top four types of talents aligned to employee success. Additional analysis found that 19 of the 21 most in-demand skills in job postings …

Education Research and The Problem of a Single Study in Isolation

Recently, I have had some conversations online about grading practices where my use of grades and rubrics has been challenged. Most often my own defense of the letter grade or 4 point scale is often shot down by just one study: Ruth Butlers 1998 study on intrinsic motivation. This is the study that shows that feedback without a grade, just feedback alone, is the most beneficial and impactful for student learned. Now it is important to note that I absolutely love this study.

But this study, like most educational research studies, looks in isolation at one component of teaching and does not take into consideration everything else. One of the big red flags with this study is that it looks at the impact of grades, grades with comments, and comments alone have on student motivation "when no further evaluation was anticipated." It is not looking at grades and comments in a cycle of inquiry or as part of the process of the feedback loop, it is not looking at formative assessments …