SBG: The Pied Piper
I just completed my second year of Standards Based Grading (SBG/ SBAR). This year, I led the march at my school and created quite the cult of SBG followers. Half of the mathematics department dove in head first with great success.
I loved SBG the first year I implemented it, but as with any new toy, it did lose some of its shininess. I love the philosophy behind SBG and I don’t think my beliefs will change, but some of the tedious, day-to-day operations of SBG will definitely be modified for next year.
A Little History First
I implemented SBG after 25% of my students failed my class and I did some serious soul and internet searching during the summer. I stumbled upon Dan Meyer’s blog on SBG, and my life changed. (Really, life altering.) I implemented SBG silently in my own classroom with the door shut and didn’t publicize it. About two months into the semester, I was called into the vice-principal’s office. He shut the door and said, “Tell me about how you grade. I heard some kids in the office talking about it and they were excited and expressed to desire for all their teachers to grade the same way. What are you doing different?” I then proceeded to layout my vision of SBG. He wanted everyone to hear it.
SBG This Year
So, I became the pied piper. I preached SBG to the Freshman Academy math teachers and some dove in with excitement, while others tiptoed on the edge. (Some were drug kicking and screaming.) I really think that some were forced into it and I am sorry for that. SBG is based in your beliefs about assessment and learning and I do not think it can be forced on someone. The Freshman Math Academy adopted it and implemented it this year. Here is their twist on SBG: 1. Students receive a list of standards that will be measured. 2. Teachers teach the lessons . 3. After three lessons students are assessed. The assessments normally consist of 3 questions per standard. The students earn a grade out of 5 on each standard. 4. The teacher teaches three more standards. 5. The student takes an assessment with the three old standards and the three new standards. 6. The two grades for the previous three standards are combined for a total out of 10 points.
If the student chooses to reassess at this point, they must complete a suggested assignment for the lesson. The suggested assignment is normally 5 – 8 problems of differing levels from the textbook. The students receive this assignment when the lesson is taught, but they are not required to complete it unless they would like to retest the standard.
Retesting is done before school, after school, or during the one hour lunch program at our school. Students do not have to sign up for retesting. Retesting normally consists of 3 problems on the standard. Students may retest any standard during the six weeks grading period.
Grading Break Down:
- Standard Assessments 70%
- Projects / Classwork 15%
- Summative Assessments 15%
This was one of the big changes this year in doing SBG. I implemented a summative assessment every six weeks. This summative assessment is a 40 question, multiple choice test. I do this for two reasons: 1. Student bombed my final exam the year before. They were not in the habit of taking a large test over multiple topics. I felt as if my small SBG quizzes had done them a disservice. 2. My students must take an End of Course test for the State. I do not believe in teaching to the test or focusing on the test, but I am a realist. My students need to practice answering multiple choice questions. After implementing summative assessments, our final exam grades increased an average of 10% over the previous years exam.
Looking Ahead with SBG
I will never go back to the traditional way of grading in my classroom. I do have some lessons that I’ve learned and things I want to change for next year.
1. Like I do now, I want to measure proficiency on every standard at least twice. Next year, I plan on only providing written feedback the first time the students test on a standard. I will not assign the work a grade. I will mark a -, check, or + in my gradebook as to their level of proficiency, but it will only be for me to reference to see if they showed improvement or a deeper level of understanding.
2. Students will need to sign up for a retesting time. This will create a log and I think they will feel more pressure to show up and retest. I have a problem now with students telling me they are going to come and retest and then they get distracted. I will take a walk in if there is space.
3. The students will have to keep a log of their standards and I will sign it when they retest. I sometimes had students come in and retest and never show improvement. They were not taking the time to learn it and if I can see this pattern on a log page, then I can address it with the students and parents.
4. I will assess fewer standards with a formal assessment. Some of the standards that I tested could have been incorporated into a relevant and applicable project. I would much rather that a student show proficiency on regression analysis by gathering their own data and performing a regression and then make appropriate predictions. I do not need to make up a list of points and have them do this on a test. I plan on spending this summer looking at my standards and eliminating the ones that students can show proficiency on in an alternative manner.
I do not feel like an expert on SBG, but with every year, I feel more confident and eager to share my ideas. I feel as if the last three years of my teaching career have been the most exciting; and I go to work everyday eager to dive in and learn with my students. I owe this to three career changing discoveries: Blogging, Twitter, and Standards Based Grading.