I have had several discussions with folks lately about my grading system, what I call a hybrid-version of Standards Based Grading (SBG), and I thought it was time to put it all down in words. I love SBG and working with teachers to develop it (in math and other subjects!). I find that the mere discussion around SBG really forces teachers to hone in on their goals and values. So let me try to share some of my stuff here.
A few starting notes:
- I love the idea of SBG–grading categories reflect the learning goals of the class and students’ grades will consequently show/measure mastery of the topics in the class.
- Many versions of “pure” SBG involve a large amount of standards.
- People seem afraid that SBG won’t fit with a traditional gradebook.
- I want a system that does not over-complicate my grading and records.
- For me, SBG and retakes go hand-in-hand.
Both schools I have worked in required me to have some form of a traditional numeric gradebook. So, I had to make sure my version of SBG fit in those structures. I eventually created the system I will talk about below, but let me just mention that it is something I constantly work on improving. My grading systems keep changing from year to year, as I make tweaks based on reflection.
Here’s how mine works:
- Standards/Goals: I started by listing all my goals/standards for the semester, what I called Learning Goals (LGs). Thinking of all the content goals or topics we cover in a semester–there are a lot! I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, so over the years I have gotten in the habit of grouping some of the goals into more umbrella goals, aiming for about 8-10 LGs for a semester. As an example, here are my LGs from the first semester of my 7th grade math class. My second LG was a combination of many goals including being able to multiply integers, divide integers, and solve multi-step integer equations using order of operations. This is an example of the way my LGs are more umbrella topics. I want to avoid getting too granular with my LGs so there are not too many and that grading can be simpler. For me, a LG is a collection of related topics that I will teach over the course of about 2 weeks (give or take some days).
- Categories: There is a reason that I have 9 LGs for each semester–it makes my gradebook work with easy numbers. I didn’t seek out 9. I had more than 9 at various times over the years, but I’ve learned my “sweet spot,” the number that I can easily fill a semester with and that will work for a simple record keeping process. If each LG is a category in my gradebook, and if I weight each LG as 10% of the grade, then that makes up 90% of my gradebook. The other 10%, what I now call the “Effective Effort” category makes up the final 10%. So my gradebook categories look like this: Notice, I no longer have categories labeled Quizzes, Projects, etc. Instead, all these assessment grades are part of the appropriate LG categories. In other words, quizzes, tests and projects make up 90% of my class. The Effective Effort category is where I put grades for homework (which I grade just on completion…my philosophy) and any other classwork points (if you grade on attendance/tardiness, groupwork, participation, etc). What I love about this system, is looking at a student’s grade might look like this: These are from a second semester in my middle school class. Can you tell what this student mastered? What she needs help on? Let me clarify the assignments listed:
- Quizzes: I give a quiz at the end of each LG, about every 1-2 weeks. These are the summative assessments for each of the LGs, but they are formative assessments for the class. You can see these quizzes in the student gradebook snapshot above. Notice that I also had a graded homework assignment “DeltaMath HW 1” for LG1. My quizzes are always out of 10 points (just to make it easy and consistent) and any other small assessments for the LGs are worth 5 points.
- Tests: I see a test as an assessment of multiple LGs all at once. To make grading and recording simple, I write my tests as if they are separate quizzes stapled together. For instance, in the picture above of the student’s grades, you can see there was a Unit 5 Test. This test was 3 pages long, and each page was an assessment of a different LG (LG1, LG2, and LG3). That is why there are three different places the Unit 5 Test is listed in the gradebook. The test was out of 30 points total, but I gave three different 10-point quiz-like grades, instead of a single 30-point grade.
- Parent-Teacher Understanding: I need to pause for one second to mention how much teachers and students appreciate this system. Teachers can look at the gradebook of a student they advise and have a detailed conversation about areas of weakness. Parents and tutors can do the same. Rather than saying a student’s grade is low due to some quiz or test, teachers and parents can see that the grade is low due to struggle with a specific topic or two. The gradebook makes more sense. This allows the adults and students to make clear action plans for studying and improvement thanks to the Retakes.
- Retakes: An important part of SBG for me is allowing multiple opportunities for re-assessment. If a student struggled with a particular topic on a quiz or test, I allow a retake at any time during the semester. A few notes on that:
- A student must make an appointment with me for a retake. It is a privilege, and I reserve the right to say no at any time.
- Often the retake is just a new quiz, but some students who struggle with test anxiety have worked out alternative methods with me (such as an oral quiz or teaching me how to solve new problems at the board).
- If the score improves, I replace the old score with the new score.
- If the score is lower, I do not change the grade, but I have a long conversation with the student about studying and “feeling ready” for a retake…this helps keep down the number of retakes that do not have improved scores after the first month.
- A student can only retake ONE LG per day.
- If a student retakes a LG after a test (say the student in the picture above wanted to retake LG2 after a low quiz grade of 75% and a test grade of 60%) and the score is an improvement, I replace all the grades in that category with the new and improved grade, as the student has improved that LG (not just the quiz).
This is my system. I’ve honed in more and more over the years on what I value, what works best for me and for my students, and what is simplistic enough to maintain clarity.