Revising my SBG system


Last year, shortly before implementing my brand-new standards-based grading system, I read the post Keep It Simple Standards-Based Grading by Frank Noschese.  He offers some great ideas on how a beginning SBGer can get started with a system that might be easier to deal with than a more complicated SBG system. The main guidelines he shares as a description of what he did:

  • A set of ~5 standards per unit. 
  • Each standard is graded binary YES/NO. 
  • Standards that are YES cannot go back down. 
  • Term grade = 50 + 50*(#YES/#TOTAL).
  • No student-initiated reassessments. 

So what did I actually do – a mix of some of his suggestions with some changes.

  • I had more than five standards per unit for Chemistry (see my Modeling Chemistry Objectives post).  I came up with these by adapting the goals for each Modeling Chemistry unit and had some input from fellow modelers as well, so I felt that even though there were more than five for each unit, there was good reason.
  • I did grade using binary system – well sort of.  Students could earn a 0, 1, or 2 for each objective (I know this is not really binary).  A “2” was perfect mastery, a “1” was anything less than that, unless there was no evidence of partial mastery (read – “the question was left blank”) which meant you got a “0”.  I thought this would work wonderfully.  By the end of the year, I was not so convinced.  This year I have adapted to the following:grading scale
    I especially feel like the “2.5” will help encourage those students who are oh so close to the right answer.  Last year, they would have earned a “1” – the same as someone who had a more fundamental misunderstanding of a concept.  And let’s face it – points are still very much ingrained in the student-teacher relationship, so a “3” or even a “2.5” feels so much better than a “2”.
  • I had students’ grades on standards go up or down based on what their most recent work showed.  I felt this held students accountable for all standards throughout the year.  It was a bit challenging as the quarters came to a close, but I still feel like it is worth it.
  • I had a much more complicated way of figuring actual letter grades than “50+ 50* yes/total”.  I used A, B and C level objectives and based letter grades on the percent of standards mastered in the highest level for which all standards in the lower levels were mastered  (in other words – master all C level objectives to start getting credit for B level objectives,  master all B’s to get credit for A level objectives).  I was ultimately unhappy with 1) my distinction between A and B level objectives and 2) overall letter grades – I felt like grades were a bit inflated.  So this year there are just C and AB level objectives.  This is one area that I feel may definitely need more tweaking.
  • I had lots of student initiated reassessments (see Rethinking Grades – Do Overs).  Yes this is a lot of work – but I think worth it, with a few more boundaries added than what I did last year.

I am overall very happy with my switch to using SBG.  As with anything new to the classroom, it will require some adapting.  But I can’t ever see returning to a points system – what’s the point of that?