SBG: Error Analysis

It's the end of the first quarter. I don't want to give up on sbg just yet. I've got to figure out what's going wrong so I can make this thing work.

I've separated grades in the gradebook according to skill.

I've been giving shorter,weekly assessments addressing specific skills.

Students have their own bubble sheets to fill in so that they can self-analyze what they know and don't know.

I've had 6 out of 68 students come in to reassess.

And 4 of those 6 were girls who had B's instead of their normal A's.

Overall, grades are lower than last year. But I have different students. I'd like to say that the grades are a truer picture of their abilities since I am only grading quizzes but with the rubric I was using, I can't necessarily agree with that.

Pitfall #1: I was forcing my instruction to fit in a quiz every Friday whether or not a skill logically ended that way. It didn't matter if we were in the middle of a skill or not, come Friday, we quiz.

Solution #1: By creating my assessment first, I can expect more out my students since I can plan better lessons. Creating the assessment first forces me to focus my instruction on the skills that are imperative to build up to the same level of ability that the assessment addresses. This way my teaching covers all the needed parts and class logically ends with an overall assessment.

Pitfall #2: It's possible that the students do not have enough independent practice to prepare them for taking an independent assessment. I've been trying new strategies to get away from direct instruction but 90% of what the students are doing is with a partner, in a group, or as a whole class. Maybe I am making it too easy for them to tune out and just write things down without holding them accountable for anything. Also, I don't give homework. If we don't finish something in class, I will tell them it's homework. They don't do it. We finish it in class the next day anyway. The whole idea of not grading homework is to give them guidance and correction through constructive feedback. I have morphed into giving no homework at all which translates into no written feedback until the actual assessment. So the only concrete evidence that they know what they are doing is the few minutes I walk around the room while they are working and give minor feedback.

Solution #2: My instructional coach is advising me to create a chart or some kind of system to check the work the students are doing, even if I'm not actually grading it. I started an Excel sheet where I catalog a C for Complete, I for Incomplete, or a 0 if they didn't turn anything in. This at least gives me a point of reference for discussion with a student/parent/administrator. Another idea I had is to hang up charts (like in Kindergarten or Sunday School) and let a student each day collect the assignments and go mark the C, I, or 0 for their class. That would give the students some involvement and maybe hold them a little more accountable since everyone could plainly see who is completing their work and who isn't. From there I could reward those that constantly complete their homework but I don't really want to start bribing them. Another idea she had is if maybe once a week I randomly checked a couple problems so that students would never know when I would be checking or for what. I really don't want to do that. I just hate grading. I don't want to grade all that and completion grades become fluff.

Pitfall #3: Students are not retaining information. I was doing my best to assess every skill twice in class to help those students who will never come in for reassessment as well as the retention issue. I don't know that it helped other than highlighting the fact that students are not retaining information.

Solution #3: Although I have created some thoughtful ideas on how to summarize my lessons, I have yet to do any. When faced with a time crunch, I tend to want to finish the notes or activity we're currently doing rather than stopping to start something new. I guess the truth is I haven't seen the value of summarizing as a tool for retention. Yet. Also, it seems like a waste for students to do the summary for me to glance at it and throw it away. On the other hand, most of the work we do in class gets less than a glance from me.  Touche. I wonder if my students would be more likely to do summaries if they had laptops to type them on? What I'd like to do is give two problems (preferably on index cards, which I heart!) of homework each day. Surely everyone could manage that. But, I still don't want to grade it. And is 2 problems really enough to aid in retention?

Pitfall #4: Students don't care about their grades. No one wants to reassess. A good portion don't even fill out the bubble chart (skill tracking form) because it's not for a 'grade'. I suppose as long as they are passing, it doesn't really bother them. Report cards come out next week, so I guess we'll see what happens then. We had progress reports at the halfway point of the quarter, but I guess no one was really upset by their grade.

Solution #4: If I knew how to make students care, I could be rich and famous by now.


  1. As my former principal always says
    'you teach students first and your subject second'. You are doing a great job. Don't take their grades too much to heart. And remember that you are preparing them for life and not just the next math class. Give your students more responsibility. Allow them to be leaders in your classroom.

  2. I know you have 'curriculum' to teach but I agree with Mr. R - teach the students! For me, summarizing is the most important part because it gives me a chance to reflect and see what the students really know. I usually assign a problem that they work on in small groups and then display their work on chart paper. Different strategies are summarized by the students - not me - and the work is left up on the board. By the units end I have little room available on the walls as it is covered with student work but they can refer to it whenever and it seems to help with retention. Before the students leave they have a choice of two questions to complete (my exit card) which serves as individual evidence of learning. If there seems to be a few students who can't answer either question then I know the start of next class a quick recap is necessary.

  3. I think the whole concept of making kids care is best left to film makers and Michelle Pfeiffer. All classes have different dynamics and social make ups.

    Finding interesting, not overly complicated ways to make kids think is the trick I reckon. I find the previously mentioned group poster work helps. It promotes discussion and collaboration, and they moderate each others ideas as they chat and write.

    No magic formula for it though. I've got one class this year that are terrified of group collaboration and actually prefer solo work in silence. Doing my best to mix it up a bit though.

    Some of Dan Meyers WCYDWT ideas have been useful in this respect.

  4. 1st : I'm so glad to hear you using backwards by design, it makes things so much easier.

    As far as having students complete their homework the thing I noticed that was the most helpful with my middle schoolers was having a chart in the room for each class to keep their class completion chart on and I would post a circle chart of their test grades from each class. The classes started their own personal competition even with the advanced class.

    I have been running into the same retention problems as yyou for the last few years. When I figure out a way to fix it I will let you know. Just know you aren't alone.

    And know that grades in the end are not a way of comparing students year to year. I know a lot of people may think I'm losing it but grades can be suggestive no matter how hard we try to keep it from being. Don't fret about grades being so different.

    You're doing an awesome job! Keep it up!