Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Level Everything

I found an efficient way to mark student work a few years ago and I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it sooner. It is so simple that I almost forgot to share it with you here on Teaching Tip Tuesdays. So here’s my tip, “Level Everything.”

I will go over some of the boring basics here but please don’t let it scare you off. I promise you that if you begin to level student work in your class, you will save yourself a lot of time, your marks will make sense and you will be able to back them up to anyone who would try to scrutinize or criticize you when it comes to your report cards.

The Basics: If you work in the province of Ontario you should be familiar with the four levels of achievement. Teachers are expected to use the achievement charts, and exemplars when assessing student work so that there is consistency within the province as to what actually constitutes an A, B, C, or D mark.

The Problem: I find that many teachers either do not know how to use the Provincial Leveling System or just don’t want to use it. This causes problems for me each and every single year (read my rant about that here)

Where do you Find These Charts?
You can find the Achievement Charts at the beginning of each Curriculum document and you can also find all of them at this site.
So What are the Levels?

The levels of achievement are meant to take the subjectiveness out of marking. The province has provided charts and exemplars so that everyone, teachers, parents, and students alike can see what exactly an A, B, C, or D piece of work should look like in each subject area.
Instead of letter grades though we use numbers. Below is an explanation of these numbers.
The Provincial Standard
Level 3 is the provincial standard. A student who receives a grade at level 3 has demonstrated considerable knowledge and understanding of the concepts taught during the term, and is able to communicate and apply this learning.

I always tell parents that if your child receives a grade at level 3 you can be confident that he or she will be prepared for work in the next term and/or grade.

Level 4 Achievement

A grade at level 4 means that a student has exceeded the provincial standard for the grade. Level 4 indicates that a student has demonstrated a thorough or high-degree of knowledge and understanding of the required learning and is able to communicate and apply this learning.
Level 2 Achievement

A grade at level 2 means that a student has demonstrated an understanding of some of the required knowledge and skills. The student’s performance is approaching the provincial standard.

Level 1 Achievement

A grade at level 1 means that a student has demonstrated a limited or partial understanding of the required knowledge and skills. The student’s performance falls considerably below the provincial standard.

How I mark student work.

I level everything.
Levelling Work Saves Time

I used to mark work out of whatever mark was called for at time time. As such, I had assignments that were out of 25, tests that were out of 50, other assignments that were only worth 10 marks, and so on and so forth. I would then take these marks and convert them to a percentage mark. With the percentages, I could average all of the marks together to get a student grade for each subject. What a lot of work.
Fortunately I discovered that I can mark everything using the levelling system. I have become intimately familiar with the achievement charts so that I can look quickly at a piece of work and give it a grade of 1,2,3, or 4. I circle these number grades so that I always know when I have levelled a price of work.
Train the students

Make sure you train the students so that they know that a level 3 is a good mark and that is what you expect of them. You can do this be sharing the exemplars with your class or creating some of your own by scanning in some student work, removing the names, and displaying them on your SMARTboard.
Level 4’s a rare. In fact, a student can get a piece of work perfect and still only get a level 3. For students to be able to achieve at this level, you need to make sure you include some higher-level thinking questions on your assignments and tests.
It sounds more complicated than it is.

I tried to explain it as easily as I could here. I hope it makes sense to you and I hope you actually use this system if you teach in Ontario. Teachers who don’t use the levelling system cause me grief each and every year as I need to explain my marks to parents. I shouldn’t have to do that as this system has been in place since 1998 and I don’t know why there still seems to be some confusion over it. It’s easy to use, it makes sense and there are some great documents for us to use.
Try it Out

Level Everything and your mark book with be full of 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, and the occasional 4. It is easy to then see the most consistent level of achievement for each subject area and write those report cards that are due next month.