The standards-based grading tool you’ve been waiting for!
If your school has recently adopted the standards-based grading, you may be wondering how it is going to affect your reporting and assessment. Will the change also come along with a teacher-friendly, easy-to-use, fast, and most of all effective tool or system that makes the standards-based grading a hassle-free and smooth transition? Or will your life as a teacher suddenly become more complicated than it already is right now, and you will need to struggle even more trying to organize and make sense of all your paperwork? Maybe you have even experienced the latter and are hoping now that someone will finally come up with something that is going to actually work. The solution may be closer than you think!
Standards-Based Grading SolutionIt seems that with GradeMaster you can have all the regular features AND the standards-based assessment in one place! You can add your standards by subjects and create lists of standards for each subject. Then, within each grade and subject you teach you can easily create activities or assignments, and assign any standards of your choosing to them. Then you just add grades, standards and students to the activity and you will have it all clearly displayed in front of you so that you can see which standards your students still struggle with, and which ones they demonstrated good understanding of. The grades are color-coded, which makes it even easier for you to see the trends. Naturally, you will be able to generate standards-based reports for your students.
A Handy Toolbox For Every TeacherEven though GradeMaster is all about standards-based grading, the whole system seems much more than that. It combines a selection of tools that might be equally important for you and may solve the problem of having to use a few different grade books at the same time or switching between software. GradeMaster allows you to set up your entire school year, add the grades and subjects you teach including your detailed timetable, specify the rooms you teach in, and define all the students you teach. Taking attendance is super easy, so is setting up and assigning activities to individual students or the whole group or a class. You will be able to easily add grades and generate reports, choose specific periods for reporting, or decide to report by standards, subjects, students or activities. There are also lots of extra features that might prove helpful such as classroom seating charts, adding and managing events, sending messages and inviting others to discussions. The last one enables you to upload students’ IEP’s, IHP’s or Behavioral Plans and discuss them with others in real time.
User ExperienceThe author’s assumption is that everyone who’s worked with an online grading system before should find this software easy to use as well. Quite possibly so. Nevertheless, to improve the user experience we would recommend adding a user-friendly intuitive video tutorial which wouldn’t require users to study the lengthy manual. The screenshots used in the current handbook are not of the highest quality, so it’s quite hard to see what should be done, and considering that most of teachers are on a tight schedule, there is usually little time left for extra studying.
In general, if you are after a new standards-based grading software that has most of the features that every teacher may need, GradeMaster might be the right tool for you. The membership fee for teachers seems very attractive too, so why not to give it a try!
About the Authors:
Witold Matulewicz and Magdalena Matulewicz are Early Years Professional Status Assessors and National Vocational Qualifications Assessors in Child’s Care Learning and Development and School Play Work in the UK. They also develop curricula, syllabi and training materials and resources for for Nurseries, After School Clubs, Schools, Training Centres, Colleges, Universities and other private clients from the UK, Australia, Spain, Qatar, Thailand, Singapore, the USA, China, and South Korea.
How can a Standards-Based Gradebook Program make your life easier?
School staff are looking for a gradebook system that is efficient and effective. There are a few tasks that most teachers will be using a gradebook system for every school day. This is how Grademaster handles them.Grademaster’s attendance screen is fairly straightforward and simple. It defaults to marking each student present, making it easy to take roll quickly. A nice feature that isn’t standard is an “other” option in addition to present, absent, and tardy, with the ability to enter notes. Having more ways to easily communicate information to the front office, parents, and other involved parties is always a nice touch. One inconvenient aspect is that the teacher is required to choose the date to take attendance for, it is not automatically set to the current date. It adds an unnecessary step and could lead to errors. Teachers may also be frustrated by the need to choose a grade level and subject to find the class, rather than choosing from a list of the classes assigned to them. Even though GradeMaster is all about standards-based grading, the whole system seems much more than that. It combines a selection of tools that might be equally important for you and may solve the problem of having to use a few different grade books at the same time or switching between software. GradeMaster allows you to set up your entire school year, add the grades and subjects you teach including your detailed timetable, specify the rooms you teach in, and define all the students you teach. Taking attendance is super easy, so is setting up and assigning activities to individual students or the whole group or a class. You will be able to easily add grades and generate reports, choose specific periods for reporting, or decide to report by standards, subjects, students or activities. There are also lots of extra features that might prove helpful such as classroom seating charts, adding and managing events, sending messages and inviting others to discussions. The last one enables you to upload students’ IEP’s, IHP’s or Behavioral Plans and discuss them with others in real time.
The process of creating a new activity or assignment is fairly intuitive. The teacher clicks through a series of screens to create your assignment, add standards, upload resources, and add other tweaks. As is standard with this software, the teacher chooses grade level and subject before creating the assignment. It was not clear if there is a way to divide this further by section. This could potentially become inconvenient for a teacher who has multiple sections of the same grade and subject who do not have identical assignments. A great feature is the drop-down menu of comments for the assignment. In addition to marking work completed or missing, there are comments on effort, and two separate comments to indicate whether an assignment a student was absent for needs to be made up.
One excellent feature is that assignments are grouped by standard, not date. It is very easy to look quickly at how a student or class is progressing in a particular standard, as well as how many times that standard has been assessed.
The IEP/504 feature is convenient and nicely organized. It features a “discuss” option in which teachers and other school personnel can send messages about an IEP or 504 with the document open electronically. This is a great feature for IEP and 504 meetings, as well as problem-solving if a student is struggling. The documents are displayed in a format that allows them to be edited within the portal, allowing for even easier editing and adjusting.
Grademaster has a few features that are really helpful for efficiency. There’s an easy ”Teacher’s Toolbox” link to commonly-used tools like Class Dojo and Remind that many teachers will be using daily. The initial dashboard page that opens after logging in shows all ungraded assignments, a helpful detail. You can easily click through from that dashboard page to enter scores. It’s a nice touch that could help keep teachers current in their grading. The dashboard also shows notifications of calendar events, which the teacher can add to or delete. Finally, there’s a section for scheduling parent-teacher conferences that looks like it would help keep that time-consuming process simple and easy.
In the administrator’s portal, there are easy-to-navigate options for managing classes, scheduling, and communication. There’s a conveniently customizable section for viewing a grade level’s progress by standard, which can be further re-organized by teacher, or even individual student. Overall, navigation is intuitive and labels are clear. The layout is simple, and it is easy to move between sections. Most standard gradebook features are handled well, with the exception of a few areas that are a little unwieldy. Grademaster is particularly strong in the area of communication and flexibility, especially in the messaging and IEP/504 areas.
Taylor F. - Seattle, WA
Overall Impression of the GradeMaster.net Teacher/Admin portals:
-As a former Vice Principal and Spanish teacher there are many things I love about the Teacher portal. I appreciate how easy it is to add new students, staff, etc. In other grade programs I have used, that has been a cumbersome process.
-I would be a lot happier as a teacher if I could have a “quick add” feature, just for the sake of time, lag time, students not always populating on rosters right away, etc.
-The Seating Chart feature is great! I love that I can easily click on a seat and add my students from a list of students scheduled in my classes. Is there a way to load school pics of the students, or assign a photo to the seat as well. This was a nice gradebook feature for substitute teachers in the previous program I used. It also helps teachers become acclimated with names/faces quicker.
-It’s so easy to take attendance and pull the attendance reports. There is nothing I would change about this feature. I was able to easily enter reasons and save attendance within minutes.
-I love how easy it is to select the courses by staff member once you have loaded all of them in the database. I like the fact that the user can see a comprehensive list of loaded classes to help them decide which classes to assign the teacher to. This is very useful.
-This program makes it so simple to navigate IEP’s, 504 plans, etc. All I had to do was upload my document, plug in the necessary information, and my IEP was ready to go. The program even makes it easy to invite others like School Psychologists, Administrators, and other valuable IEP team members to view, and/or edit the document. You can have conversations with group members within the program as well. Lots of awesome features in this gradebook program!
-The reports are very comprehensive, and easy to understand. I would love to create more data to pull more reports, but so far from what I have actually done, they were comprehensive.
Nicole S.- San Diego-Ocean Beach, CA