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SBG and Summative Assessments

I have been using SBG (Standards Based Grading) for two years now.  I love it.  I have tweaked it over the years to better fit my students and their needs.  (Isn’t that why we are here?) 

My first year using SBG, I only allowed students to earn a 9/10 on retesting opportunities because I really believed that the students who mastered the material first, deserved the 10.  I have since changed this belief.  At the end of my first semester with SBG, I ended up with a whole lot of students who knew all of the material but only had 90% to show for it.  This was a mistake on my part. 

Also, my first year with SBG, I did not give any type  of summative assessment until the final exam.  This was a major mistake.  I learned that my students did not know how to take a large, multiple choice, accumulative test.  I’m not a huge fan of large tests, but they are a part of our state assessment model.  So last year I implemented summative assessments every 6 weeks.  It counts as 10 – 15% of the students grade, depending on the class.  I thought I would be greeted with weeping and gnashing of teeth by my students, but I was not.  The students received it really well.  It also had a surprising result I did not expect:  my final exam scores increased from years past. 

In the past, my students always did bad on the final exam.  Before SBG, I would give chapter tests.  The students would cram and their was no motivation to go back and fix gaps in learning.  SBG fixed this.  It motivated my students to master material they might have missed before.  Using SBG with no summative assessments did not allow my students the chance to practice taking large tests.  SBG with summative assessments fixed this.

This school year, I converted several of my colleagues to come to the SBG side.  The entire freshman academy math department decided to implement it.  I have heard nothing but good things.  The teachers love it and it is a great tool for transitioning the freshman to high school.  I know in my heart that this is great, but I wanted proof (I am a mathematician).  I had the vice principal run some numbers for me and here is what we discovered:

Last year, not using SBG with Summative Assessments, 35% of the freshman class failed their final exam for Algebra A.  The average failing grade was a 60%.

This year, using SBG with Summative Assessments, only 24% of the freshman class failed their final exam for Algebra A.  The average failing grade was a 62%.

This happened using the same group of teachers, the same curriculum, and the same final exam.  The only changes were the students themselves, and the implementation of SBG.  I can offer no other explanation.  I’m so proud of this group of teachers and the hard work they have put in this year.  They did this to help the students.  SBG wasn’t easy and it is not a quick fix.  It is hard work and extra time before school, after school, and during lunch; but it has paid off.  I can’t imagine ever going back to a ‘traditional’ assessment model.

Categories: Algebra 1, General, SBG
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