Real SBG

Can sbg be sbg without choice?

Is the power in sbg the fact that students are self-motivated to practice and re-test?

What would happen if I turned choice into a requirement?

Say, anytime you score less than an 80%, you a required to do a practice sheet and retest.

Is that not real sbg?

Is it motivating the students to make sure that they get an 80% the first time so they don't have to do more work?

Is it handicapping them because they know if they do bad, they have a freebie?

I self-diagnosed my biggest sbg  failure as not getting students to come in and retest. This is an option I thought of to try next year. Especially if I introduce it as a brand new system created specifically for their class in order to make sure that they cannot fail.

Forget Common Core, I'm going back to my ACT College Readiness Skills. If I can have a practice sheet tied to each of those skills, then as soon as someone scores less than 80%, BAM, I whip my practice sheet back and forth. And if I make two versions of every quiz ahead of time, then BAM, they satisfactorily complete the practice,  and I hand out the new quiz. Is this how it is supposed to work people?

I am in the brainstorming process of this so go ahead...hit me with your best shot.

Fire awaaaaaayyyyyy.


  1. I have a few steps if kids start to fall behind,usually some practice probs or different resources. Eventually though, I make my kids come in for extra tutoring if they fall behind. Retesting is their way out of it. I'm pretty serious about the "learning is not optional" thing. Maybe you're looking for something like this:

    I'm a fan of choice, but choosing not to learn isn't allowed.

  2. Hi Miss Calcul8,

    I teach freshmen, so my SBG system has ALWAYS made retesting mandatory.

    My quizzes look kind of like Dan Meyer's, as in there are multiple quizzes at one time - but only 3 at a time. For instance, my kids just took a quiz with Quiz 2, Quiz 3, and Quiz 4 on it.

    After they take the quiz 3 times, it cycles off the in-class quizzes. But if they fail the same quiz TWICE, I immediately give them tutoring. If they don't come I call home and write a referral, but after awhile I do give up on some, and tell them straight out "Come or you'll fail." Some do, some don't.

    But at least I tried to impress upon them that learning the basics in my class is mandatory, and that if you don't pay attention you'll fall behind. Honestly, I give so much help and repetition in class, and so little hw (HW is excused unless you slack off in class!) that every student that pays attention passes. Last semester I had only ONE student that paid attention and didn't pass, and she fell far behind but didn't keep up the tutoring.

    The beauty of SBG is that students can choose to excel, but its also that teachers can carefully target forced remediation. I don't think it "violates" the spirit of SBG to force remediation. I think it goes together - I give you detailed feedback on your weak areas, and in return you MUST fix those areas.

    ~ Suranidee

  3. I teach community college. I don't call it SBG, but I do mastey tests that they can repeat. I used to mix those and regular tests, and said the mastery tests required an 85% to pass, and you had to pass them all. No one did worse because of that, and many did much better.

    Last semester most of my students would have failed if I had kept to that, so I let it slide. This semester, I will enforce it on 5 of the 9 mastery tests.

  4. Jason,
    Thanks for the link. I guess that is what I mean but I want to tie it in with sbg because I want to use it so bad. I think the key here for me is having all this stuff prepared ahead of time so I can easily whip it out and not even have to think about what I'm going to do. Also, I need to work out the logistics. A practice worksheet can be handed out as homework but I need a specific weekly time for retests. That is easy compared to creating all those practice sheets and remakes though.

    I like Dan Meyer's cycle but I just can't work it out in my head. I tried it and it just got me all screwed up. Not sure what the problem is.

    I think college students are a little more motivated to work since they are paying to be there but I kind of like the idea of mixing up mastery tests and regular tests. That's something I hadn't thought of.

  5. I changed over to all mastery tests, and I think that works better. I don't retest skills in different tests - that sounds too confusing. I wrote about it in detail here.

  6. Maybe I’m missing something obvious here, but what happens if every teacher requires retesting if their student gets less than 80%? Does that mean that a student who usually gets C’s in all her subjects will be spending all of her free time taking re-tests? And what if that comes at the expense of participating in any extracurricular activities, which colleges also like to see on transcripts.

    I don’t have answers, just annoying questions.

  7. When deciding between moving up from C grades or doing extracurricular activities, most colleges would prefer to see the better grades. The extracurriculars help them choose among the top students, but don't compensate for really low grades.

  8. My concern is that a C student who can’t afford to go to college won’t get a sports scholarship because they have to spend their free time re-testing under SBG. Which means, in essence, that you’re raising the bar on eligibility for playing sports from passing to now 80% in all subjects.

    And what about the students who are still in school because they can play a sport? I know it’s short-sighted, but I’ve worked with too many students who can’t see the need for schooling beyond next Friday night’s big game.

    I think getting students to that proficiency level is an admirable and desirable goal, but I just see some real negative outcomes if mandatory re-testing in all subjects becomes the new standard.

  9. Paul,
    I hadn't thought of the question you raised. But in my mind, if mandatory re-testing in all subjects becomes the new standard, then a student should become highly motivated to pay attention, complete homework, and try harder to pass the test the first time. Also, student athletes have to maintain a certain grade to play anyway; isn't that another type of motivation? If a student if failing every class and has to spend time re-testing, then there must be a bigger problem than just too much re-testing.

    Plus, re-testing wouldn't necessarily interfere with sports. Most schools have a built in homeroom, study hall, or extended lunch time Even in an after school setting, a student could re-test in multiple subjects in one day or split half time between re-testing and practice. Or if available, students could re-test online. There are options. Also, I find it hard to believe that a coach would NOT support their players improving their grades.

    Time management and setting priorities is a skill any student needs but especially an athlete and future college graduate.

    Maybe training them early on would help improve their abilities in the classroom and on the field/court?

    Is it better to let students/athletes pass the course with gaps in their knowledge that will conveniently show up once that scholarship has gotten them too college? Sports can't keep them there if the grades couldn't get them there in the first place.

  10. Your response gave me much to reflect on, because not being in a district where SBG is implemented, I just don’t know if making 80% proficiency mandatory is going to improve student knowledge and achievement or increase the dropout rate. What I do know is that the belief of some students, that all they need to do is to get D’s to get into community college, doesn’t match up with reality since (a) they’ll probably end up in a developmental math class, which has a national failure rate of over 50% the first time a student takes it and (b) only a third of students who enter community college end up transferring to university or getting an associates degree (at least in the California community college system).

    PS: I really appreciate your sharing your thinking as you continue to refine your implementation of SBG to make it work for your students. Our district could decide to implement it in the future, so it definitely helps to get your insights and others on how best to implement it.

  11. Paul,
    No one in my district implements sbg. I would be the first and even if I was 100% successful at it, it would still take a while for everyone to jump on board. Our state testing scores are 15% meeting and our goal is to raise it to 45%. We have to do something drastic. Plus, don't athletes already have to maintain a mandatory percentage, 70% or 60%? What about self-fulfilling prophecy and high expectations? Isn't it proven that when we raise the bar, students rise to the challenge? In our school, (unfortunately) reading and math are the only subjects that really matter, so I can see a mandatory 80% being required in those two. But all students have gym and usually an elective or two so it wouldn't be as if the student athletes would be re-testing in 7 different periods.

    All I know is I found one way that failed. Now I'm looking at another way that may fail as well. But I'm trying to brainstorm it all out so that this summer I can prepare and plan everything ahead of time. Then if it fails, I have a better idea of what went wrong. Hopefully it can be tweaked instead of dropped in the middle of the year!

  12. In our district, student athletes cannot get more than two D’s to remain eligible. So there certainly is a bar they need to meet. Whether that’s the right level to set the bar, is open to debate. I think two hours of studying is not an unrealistic expectation in order to prepare for a 45 minute test in a non-SBG classroom. So in deciding whether mandatory re-testing for less than 80% proficiency is reasonable, you also have to consider the additional time required of students to study for these re-tests as well as the time required to take the re-tests.

    I wish there was some magic bullet such as setting higher expectations and students will rise to the occasion, but increasing student achievement is more heuristics than algorithms: regardless of what anyone says about SBG, flipping classrooms, authentic learning, teaching to the visual, auditory, kinesthetic modalities, etc., at best any teaching strategy works some of the time for some of the students. I am currently reading “Why Johnny Can’t Add,” which is a ranting yet quite detailed analysis of the New Math movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. (Did you know that y^2=x+5 used to be considered a function, not a relation? Before new math, it was considered a “multi-step function.”) People thought it would radically reform our ailing math and sciences programs, but ultimately it had at least as many faults as the traditional math program at the time.

    A fifteen percent meeting state standards for your school says to me that you have students who are grade levels behind in math when you first get them. And that more experienced teachers than you in prior years tried and failed to make a noticeable improvement in those students’ education. So going from 15% to 45%, or three times the current meeting-standards rate, is an incredibly high bar that’s been set for you.

    Unfortunately, just setting the bar higher isn’t going to automatically make students learn more or you meet the expectation. A lot of the improvement comes down to consistent and numerous small actions that over time add up to meaningful improvement.

  13. Paul,
    In sbd, quizzes are shorter and and given more often. Probably about 4-6 problems, so not a 45-minute test like in traditional classes.

    My students don't know how to study anyway, so my version of studying is having them do practice problems. Like I mentioned before, if I had a sheet of practice problems ready to go, as soon as I pass back quizzes, I could have that sheet stapled to it as that student's homework assignment. I could even give them the answers so that they would have to show work and hopefully, be able to self-check. Then student brings back paper for me to check and correct. That's my form of formative assessment. From there, I can get a good idea of that student's understanding. Now we either go down the road of more practice or re-test.

    To me, I see it as throwing out lifeline and you see it as me throwing me overboard. lol It's always interesting how people have such different perspectives.

    What lifeline is currently offered to athletes in the traditional system?
    I still believe in raising the bar but what has to come with that is support. There has to be a system to catch those who can't do it on their own and give them a boost. That's what I hope sbg can be.

  14. I had no idea that SBG did away with full period tests and final exams. Had I known that, I think I would not have responded to your original post, because that is just so outside my reality of what I feel students need to prepare for university: studying for hour long tests and two or three hour exams requires a different skill set then studying for a series of short 4-6 question quizzes.

    Ultimately, however, we use whatever means are at our disposal to make a positive impact on our students’ lives. If you’ve got an approach that works then go for it. And if tomorrow I found out that SBG was being implemented at my district, I’d figure out how to make it work for my students, including giving serious consideration to the lifelines that you currently employ in the classroom.

  15. Paul,
    SBG does not do away with final exams. Since short quizzes are arranged by topic, then a final exam is a compilation of those topics and remediation should be able to be seen at-a-glance. The whole idea is that students can easily target what they know and what they don't so that we can help remediate the latter. Some teachers occasionally do retention test that cover lots of topics and that's where your hour long test could potentially play in. I would rather know my students have learned the material needed for college and have to adjust their study habits than to know how to study but not what to study or the necessary background knowledge.

    But like you mentioned, we use whatever means we have. I am confident that sbg can hit the best of both worlds. I am just not confident on how to prepare and implement that.