Standards Based Grading Revisions

I am looking at revising my grading in my Algebra 2 classes. If you could kindly read and offer some feedback in the comments, that would be greatly appreciated!

For the past several years, I have used a form of Standards Based Grading. Assessments have grades for each learning target. Learning target scores are out of 10 points and students earn a score of anywhere of 5 (did not attempt) to 10 out of 10 points. In any given grading period, I have between 10 and 15 learning targets (so 100-150 points). Students can reassess any individual learning target.

Score Level Meaning In Gradebook
5 No attempt I did not answer the questions and/or I did not show any of my thinking to answer the questions. Also given when I don’t show up for an assessment. 5/10 (50%)
6 Limited I don’t get it. I don’t even think I am starting this problem right. 6/10 (60%)
7 Basic I think I don’t get it. I can start the problem, but I cannot get very far in solving it. 7/10 (70%)
8 Competent I get the idea. I can start the problems but I make some mistakes along the way. 8/10 (80%)
9 Proficient I have a good idea of what I am doing. I make some minor mistakes or one major mistake along the way. 9/10 (90%)
10 Mastery I know what I am doing. I can answer problems without making any mistakes. I can help other students with this kind of problem. 10/10 (100%)

I wasn’t happy with how things worked out. Students were not completing practice problems (homework) and did not do as well as they could have. Students did not reassess. So, revisions were needed. Things that I have tried:

  • Since students were not doing homework, I added in a 20 point homework learning target. I would mark whether students completed (1), partially completed (1/2), or did not really attempt (0) homework assignments. I would total up the number of points a student had, divided it by the number of homeworks the student was assigned and multiplied the decimal by 20 to get their homework learning target. While this did create accountability, I don’t think it really changed the behavior of most students in terms of whether or not they did the assigned problems. I did like that it did not put a heavy weight on homework.
  • I have tried corrections in class the day after assessments. While this helped students’ grades, I don’t feel like they learned or retained the material well. Benchmarks and semester exams show that is true for many students.

This is my current brainstorm for the upcoming school year. I would appreciate any feedback in the comments.

I am looking at 3 components to student grades:

1) Individual Learning Targets – same as before. 10 points per learning target, scores between 5 and 10. Students may reassess as I had done in the past (they would need to come in outside of class and complete problems on that particular learning target). No corrections in class.

2) Homework – most grading periods, I have approximately 20 homeworks that I check. Rather than do the percentage deal, make each homework worth a point. Students can earn 1/2 point for partially completed assignments. Basically do the scoring the same but not make the final grade out of 20 points. Add them up and have one homework grade. Rather than having a grade like 17.5/20, a student’s homework grade would be 6/8 or 19.5/21 or whatever the total was at any point in the grading period. I think it will save hassle for me in the long run and be clearer to everyone where that grade comes from. As much as I would like to be rid of this grade, I cannot see doing so. It does provide accountability and gives some incentive to the students who were borderline on attempting it.

3) (This is the area I’m struggling with the most) I would like to add an additional section on assessments that would be previously taught material. Students still seem to feel that they need to learn the material for the assessment and then they can forget it. Although in Algebra 2. it seems like previous material comes up more, I want to make sure I continue to assess that material so that students will hopefully work to retain it better. I am thinking of having 2-3 problems from previously taught material and assess it similarly to the individual learning targets part of assessments. It would be a 10 point section on their assessment. However, unlike the learning target section, they could not reassess this portion of their assessment. I am still debating whether I would grade it on the same rubric I use for the Learning Target section (5 – 10 points) or if I would make each problem worth a certain amount and then give a score for each problem (i.e. problem 6 is worth 5 points, problem 7 is worth 2 points, and problem 8 is worth 3 points). I tend to give anywhere from 3-5 assessments in a grading period, so this would add an additional 30 to 50 points on the grading period. It would also lessen the affect of the homework points as a part of one’s grade.

If I add this additional component, something else I am debating is whether everyone would get the same kind of problems in the review portion. I usually make up 3-4 versions of the same assessment (to discourage wandering eyes). Would all versions have the same type of problems – for example, would all versions have factoring problems and a graphing quadratics problem? Or, would I choose different types of review problems for each version – for example, version 1 would have a factoring problem and a graphing quadratics problem, version 2 would have a solving quadratics problem and a vertex form problem, etc.? I think the latter may be perceived as not fair but I’m not sure I want everyone to know what the review problems would be so that they would be prepared. I’m still thinking that through.

Thanks for any feedback you can offer. I appreciate it.

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9 thoughts on “Standards Based Grading Revisions”

  1. I’m curious why a no-show is a 5. I get that a no-clue is a 5 (at least there was an attempt), but I can see how a 5/10 for not trying would lead to lots of students not trying.

    1. Lisa says:

      School policy is that the lowest grade we can give in a grading period is 50%. By giving a 5/10, it made sure that I wasn’t giving a score for a student lower than a 50%.

  2. Lauren De'Reche says:

    I have juggled with SBG for five years now in Alg 1-2, Alg 3-4 and H. Alg 3-4 and I do have some suggestions. I regularly rotate old targets to assessments and not every student gets the same one. Instead, I plan out two-three targets to give reassessments for and make sure any student who need that reassessment get it. Students who don’t need reassessment on any target get a random one as review. It’s my way of giving reassessment opportunities to those students who won’t come in on their own. I also make it clear what targets students will see to encourage them to complete practice work they may not have completed initially (since winging it obviously didn’t work). I think this works with your idea of having spiral material anyway.

    As far as motivation goes the biggest impact I had in my classroom was removing the points/ not averaging targets. So long as their are points and averaging students can “get away” with bad understanding on essential targets and have a grade they/their parents are comfortable with. In my classroom now, if you want an A/B you can’t have a single target below a 3 (or 8/10 on your scale). Knowing they need to remediate to get the grade they want has been the only thing that has worked for me. It’s a big scary leap (and there are big complaints at progress reports), but it made a huge difference in my classrooms. I kept my expectations clear from the beginning, reinforced practice and reassessments, and heavily emphasized a growth mindset.

    Just something to consider

    1. Lisa says:

      Did you give every student different learning targets then (meaning if you had 80 tests to give, you gave each student their own questions so you had 80 sets of “old” to create/compile)?

      We give percentage grades (not letter grades) on report cards. While I’m intrigued with the idea of A/B/Not Yet that I’ve seen, I can’t quite rectify how that would work for me with having to give a percentage grade. Any suggestions on how to make that work?

      Thanks for your thoughts – I really appreciate it.

  3. Jim Murray says:

    Your SBG ideas sound very good. Getting students to do assignments for learning rather than for points is a struggle. Here are a few ideas that we have either tried in class or run across from other reading.

    1) Retakes are given only if each assignment for the unit being assessed is complete. This likely won’t curb students copying assignments from others, but it will put an emphasis on completing work.

    2) On each assessment, provide a “review” section or a “cumulative” section for problems from previous units/objectives. You can assign this section a fixed percentage of the overall grade. This will help with the “how many points to these problems earn” question.

    3) In addition to having students make corrections, have students identify what type of error was made. For example, students can note whether they made a computational error, a misunderstanding the question error, a not-remembering–the-formula error, etc.

    Also, instead if marking each problem for students, consider just putting a point total on the page. You can record points for individual problems for your records, but do not mark each problem on the student page. Then, put students in groups – with matching versions of the assessment – and have them discuss the problems and identify heir own mistakes. The metacognition should improve learning as well as improve grades.

    1. Lisa says:

      Thanks for your suggestions, Jim. I appreciate it and will ponder them.

  4. Rather than doing test “corrections” the day after, I’m going to try something I observed from Bruce Cohen (@mathcohen). The day after a test, Bruce has students do a “redux” — in essence, they do the whole test a second time, but this time collaboratively in their table groups on table whiteboards.

    His students have told me that this really helps them to solidify their learning because they talk it through and share in each other’s insights.

    This sounds like it might be a more effective use of “the day after” than just having them correct stuff.

    Food for thought at least.

    – Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

    1. Lisa says:

      Does the redux factor into their grade (i.e. does it revise a poor score)? I am curious to hear more details on how this works.

  5. Hi Lisa,
    I too am making some adjustments to my SBG this year.
    Homework: While I understand the desire to grade it for accountability, it often still ends up being the same kids who actually complete it on their own. I’m really trying to move away from grading behaviors, and homework completion is a behavior. I also get the economics of time for students. Lets say they have 3 homework assignments, 2 go in the grade book & 1 doesn’t. They have limited time and we know which one doesn’t get done. Last year they had to complete all but 1 hw assign per unit to be eligible for retakes. They also got a 1 day grace period because we all have things that happen. For this year, I’m thinking if they don’t have their homework complete, they will come in during Enrichment or after school tutorial to complete it. They will immediately send an email to their parents, cc me, explaining that they didn’t do their homework on time so they will be doing it at such and such time instead.
    Spiraling: Our math team has all agreed that every assessment should be spiraled. About 60% of the assessment is new material, 40% is review. I tell them which review topics could be on the test. This was very successful last year and students did significantly better on final exams. Because of this, I’m grading different & not doing retakes. Instead of an overall test grade, they will get learning target grades. Since everything spirals, all learning targets will end up coming up multiple times. That’s how they can improve their score – show that their learning has increased over time.
    Finally, someone else mentioned the horribleness of averaging, I’m in the same boat. I haven’t totally determined it yet, but something like if there is a 4 point scale, they can only have two 3’s, no 2’s, and no 1’s to get an A in the course. An A symbolizes above and beyond mastery of the overwhelming majority of the course content.
    Sorry this is so long! I’m in the midst of summer grant work on SBG for my school, so I’ve been reading & interviewing people for several weeks!
    ~Robin (@romathio)

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