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SBG: My Standards, Assessments, and Thoughts on Grading

July 18, 2013

Hi Everyone,

I present, for your planning pleasure, portions of my Geometry Standards and around 30 Geometry Assessments that I used last year:

My Standards

My Assessments

There are comments at the end of each document detailing bits and pieces about how I made them and adjustments I would make if I had it to do all over again.

I’m not posting these because I’m especially proud or to brag or for feedback. In fact, I think most of it is pretty subpar. But, I’m posting them because someone emailed me asking what I did last year so they could have a place to jump-off from, so that’s what these are. I think they could be better. Maybe with these as a starting point, you won’t make the mistakes I made and your own standards and assessments become better. I hope they do, and that you post them, so someone else can jump off of those and we keep getting better and better.

I think there are better Standards documents out there on the web and a good place to find them is here:

I think there is an ongoing effort to make assessments better and I know mine certainly could be. But, that effort is happening here:

Update: This post was inspired by a teacher who emailed me asking about my assessments and standards and such. She also asked me about grading, which was a whole ‘nother long and complex email. I’ve copied it below in case you’d like to see even more into how I think about assessing and grading:

First, there’s the philosophy behind ‘grades’ and my desire for it to be more like feedback than like a grade. Most of that is well-documented on my blog (although if any of that is unclear, let me know and I’ll fill in the gaps). Then there’s my actual grading rubric – the 0-5.

Each page of an assessment is graded separately and entered into the gradebook separately. Each page receives a score of 1-5. The scores translate into the gradebook without any altering – a 1 on a test translates to 20%. A 4 translates to 80%. A 3 translates to 60%. This means, for a student to pass my class, they need mostly 3’s and 4’s on assessments, and a 2 represents a failing grade that necessitates remediation. I keep this in mind when I assign grades, and I’ll come back to this point later.

If a student left most of the assessment blank, I leave their score blank (not a 0, just blank) and tell them to come in and retake this. I think there’s something psychological about having a blank score vs a 0 score, and I find the blank score easier to motivate remediation with rather than the 0 score. Students are used to grades being final, so once any grade is given (even a 0), students tend to accept it. Blank scores, on the other hand, beg the question “Can I make that up?”. So, if I want a student to re-do something, I tend to leave it blank rather than give it a 0, even if the student already completed it but did a really poor job.

If a student gets 100% on a page, they get a 5. It has to be 100%. This is mostly for me so I don’t get too subjective with my grading and so I can be consistent. This is also why my 5’s are a big deal and why I started the Wall of Champions to help motivate students to get 5’s on my assessments.

Beyond that, a 4 is meant to represent “Understanding with 1 or 2 Small Mistakes”, a 3 is meant to represent “Strong Understanding, but inconsistent performance / one big glaring mistake that is straightforward to fix”, and a 2 is meant to represent “Little understanding – major mistakes, work does not convince me that you understand the material, we need to talk’. In my mind, 2 is failing, 3 is barely passing, and 4 is passing but not perfect. Here’s the handout I give to my students and I have posted in my classroom: Whenever I’m in doubt, I look at this to remind me. A few major influences for this rubric was Sam Shah’s rubric/explanation of his SBG system (there’s a link to this post somewhere on my blog), but also this grading rubric from a few teachers I know here in Tucson:

Update 2/21/14: In my next incarnation of how I describe what the different levels of understanding mean, I’m going to include some of the language from Evan Weinberg’s post of his own SBG Reflections. In particular, how he relates levels 1-3 around how independent a student is, as well as how he explicitly states “You won’t advance past here if you keep making this type of mistake”. I think his descriptions are spot-on and highly recommend reading his post.

How I assign 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s depends on what type of skill I’m grading and how specific their knowledge needs to be. For example, things like integer operations / linear equations / geometric definitions / coordinate geometry formulas (slope, distance, midpoint) /  other foundational skills: I design the assessments to be very straightforward so that there is very little gray area in terms of the grade. This usually means those foundational skills are graded very harshly, but are also reassessed throughout the semester. This is me setting the bar high: everyone should be able to add and subtract signed numbers, and if you miss more than 2 questions on that assessment, you haven’t proven to me that you know it and you won’t earn higher than a 2. When I design these assessments, I want students to get a 5 on them, which is why some of my assessments look extremely straightfoward and simple – there’s no tricky or complex questions which means I can grade clearly and directly. It also makes it apparent when a student has a superficial understanding of a concept or skill, which makes it easier for me to remediate and fix.

For more conceptual skills – ones that are better measured with ‘explain’/’justify’/’sketch’ question – I usually think about the handout I give the students (linked above) and what that looks like for the specific skill I’m assessing. This is where separating the questions into “Level 2”, “Level 3”, and “Level 5” questions helps make it easier for me to grade. If a student can answer the Level 2 questions correctly, they’ve earned at least a 2. If they can answer 2 and 3 correctly, they have at least a 3. If they make a mistake during the level 5, they earn a 4. This post was really influential in the way I think about these conceptual skills: The rest is all subjective and based on the context of the assessment. In these situations, I think of their assessment as an argument to me – they’re saying “I know how to do this and here’s my proof!”. Which means if there are nonsensical statements, or a lack of work shown, or inconsistent mistakes (they get one question right but another question of the same type wrong), then I tend to mark down. If I’m debating between two grades and it takes me longer than 10 seconds to decide, I go with the lower one, since my internal debate must mean that they haven’t convinced me that they deserve the higher grade (if they did, my decision would be faster). The nice thing about SBG and offering reassessments is that if a student disagrees and talks to you about it, they can come in the next day and take another version of the test to prove they were right.

At the end of the day, the score on an assessment is both feedback and a grade. In the past, my final gradebook has looked like a reverse bellcurve – several scores below 40, several scores above 80, and a range of scores in between. When I was thinking about how I wanted my scores to translate into grades, I knew I wanted my grades to be more granular – I don’t really need the entire 0-100 range for student grades. I need extremely failing (20%), almost passing but still failing (45-55%), doing fine (65-75%), and exceeding (85-100%). This is why the scores translate exactly – a 1 is 20%, a 2 is 40%, a 3 is 60%, a 4 is 80% and a 5 is 100%. As a result, I found my gradebook looked like a true bell curve – a few scores in the low 20’s, most of them between 65-75, and a few A’s in each class.  I found that it wasn’t until near the end of the semester that everyone’s grades leveled off where they should be. I found that giving assessments at the right time became extremely important – if my students aren’t ready, I don’t give the assessment. Having positive reinforcement for earning high scores is really important. Reassessing often is essential. Emphasizing a growth mindset is essential. Making it clear that I want students to ace my tests is important.

So…. there’s a lot of thoughts on grading. If something is unclear, definitely ask me about it and I’ll try to illuminate it.

Daniel Schneider
aka: Mathy McMatherson

One Comment
  1. Joy Hurst permalink

    Thanks for all your blogging! I’m just starting to think about this transition. No one at my school is doing this. It is a bit overwhelming. Where do you recommend or how do you recommend I start? How do you handle homework? Do you assign it? Do you grade it? How does it fit into their overall grade? I teach HS science so I’m not sure how my labs and projects fit into all of this? I would love to chat with you more.


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