Thursday, December 18, 2014

Standards Based Grading

Just a WARNING, this is going to be a long post...

So I started doing Standards Based Grading (SBG) at the beginning of last school year.  At this point I have 1.5 years under my belt and I still keep making changes.  The one thing that hasn't changed is my policies or my grading rubric.

My policy/rubric are a combination of ideas from Jessica over at Algebrainic, Rick Wormeli, my good friend and former co-worker Terie at Crazy Teacher Lady, oh and my own insane ideas.  It took me over a year to get everything figured out before I actually started implementing it into my classroom.

How is SBG different from Traditional Grading?

  • Student's grades are only based on their assessments over the standards (this is different based on which policy you use)
  • Scores in the grade book change as students understanding changes. 
  • Grades are not final until the end of the semester/year.
  • Some students obtain a score of master sooner than others.
  • If students are struggling they get more individual/small group instruction.
  • Grade is a direct representation of student learning.

Grading Rubric:

You have completely mastered the skill on two skill assessments, meaning you received two 4’s, which makes your overall skill score a 5.  You have completed this skill. You “get” it!
You have demonstrated a thorough understanding of the concepts involved, have clearly showed all steps of your reasoning, have used notation correctly, wrote exemplary and clearly, and have made no mathematical errors. You can not only solve beginning problems and multi-concept problems, but you can solve Application, ACT and PARCC questions related to the concept.
You have a firm grasp of the skill, meaning you have demonstrated a full or almost understanding of the concepts involved, but you may have not shown steps of your reasoning, didn’t use notation totally consistently, and made a slight (but non-fatal) mathematical error.  You still need help with this skill. You can not only solve beginning problems, but you can take previously taught concepts and apply them to new problems.
You have demonstrated some understanding of the skill.  You may have some confused reasoning, did not completely answer the question, did not use consistent notation, made more than one (non-fatal) mathematical errors. You still need help with this skill. You can solve beginning problems on your own without any help.
You have demonstrated weak or no conceptual understanding.  You may have confused reasoning, or made one or more serious (fatal) mathematical errors.  You still need a lot of help with this skill.  You need assistance in order to solve beginning problems.
You left the problem blank; no attempt was made to solve the problem.  

How does it all work?
  1. Students at the beginning of each unit are pre-assessed, not only on what we will be learning but the prerequisite skills they need for that unit. 
  2. The assessments are scored and the students enter that score into their folders. (we will get to those later!)  I also enter those into the grade book, however they don't count towards the students grade it's just so I can see where they started at and where they ended at.
  3. Based on those scores I break my students up into group and the learning process begins.
  4. Notes on the content are given using our ISN's, and then activities are given based on their level of knowledge.
  5. Once students understand the content they are given a "Progress Check" to see where they are at.  If they score a 4, many will practice and try for a 5 right away.  Some wait awhile. I consider "Mastery" if they get to a level 3.
  6. Students that get a mastery score, level 3 or higher, move onto the next concept, students that don't participate in re-teaching, additional activities, etc.  Once they are ready they will take another Progress Check and the cycle beings until they reach mastery.
  7. The Progress Checks are scored and each score is entered into their folder, even if they have multiple scores.  The score on their most current Progress Check is the one entered into the grade book, even if it's lower than the previous one.
  8. This repeats for every unit!
Things I've Learned...
  • When you think you have everything figured out, you'll make changes!
  • Keep students constantly informed of how they are doing.  This is something I learned after my 1st year.
  • Make multiple versions of your progress checks.  TRUST ME YOU WILL NEED THEM!  I have about 4-5 different progress checks on Solving Equations.
  • Have students set a realistic goal for themselves in each unit.  It can help keep them motivated.


  1. How does this work with students with learning disabilities? Or students who "just don't get it"? Are there ever any students who get so far behind because they didn't master the skill?

    1. Hi Jessica,

      All of my classes are students with learning disabilities with occasionally an autistic or ED student. This actually works out great for them because when they have taken a progress check they know if they weren't ready for it or are just having a bad day they can retake another one at any time. Often they get the chance to progress check over a given skill at least 2-3 times before we start moving on, this is just how I structure my classes. If a student is struggling really badly, I had 4 of them 2 in each of my math classes this past year, they get pulled away from the rest of the group to work on more practice or get more 1:1 time with my aide. If they still need more time and the entire rest of the class is moving on then it becomes on their own time. They make appointments to meet with me before or after school and we work to get them caught up. If it's a skill we are building on and they have some foundation then they move on with the rest of the class since they will still get some more practice within the class. The kids have until the end of the semester to prove to me that they mastered a skill, since that is when my grades are due. Some never master every skill, just the nature of their disabilities but we work as hard as we can and I try to provide them with every opportunity to master the skills. I try not to let them get too far behind before doing major interventions. Hopefully that answered our questions, if you need more information I'm happy to provide you with anything I can.


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