10 Steps to SBG

After a long and involved Twitter chat last night, I think I've come up with my skeleton outline for how I want to do stands-based grading. Here are my 10 steps.

  1. Write your concept list/pacing guide (aligned to whatever) and determine your priorities.
  2. Write assessments for each standard separately (3-5 questions per standard).
  3. Write extra questions that can be used for reassessments.
  4. Teach; give assessments and grade (give specific feedback!).
  5. Mark students’ proficiency on each standard individually in the grade book.
  6. Offer students the opportunity for reassessment.
  7. Require students who want to reassess to fill out reassessment form.
  8. Give students a specific day when they can reassess and require them to inform you ahead of time.
  9. Give reassessment.
  10. Grade by giving feedback; change old grade for that standard to the new grade from the reassessment.
Here is my thinking. I will give reassessments every Thursday and require the reassessment form to be turned in on the previous Tuesday. This gives me all day Tuesday and Wednesday to check the links and revisions as well as prepare the reassessment. I don't want students to think they can write crap down and I will let it fly. Also, I chose those days because we are rarely out of school or have an early dismissal on a Tuesday or Thursday.

As for the form, I'm aware that students might just find a link without actually watching the video or reading the example. I'm also aware that they might just copy someone's problems for their revisions. But I'm thinking this is a way to teach that you don't get something for nothing and that you have to put forth effort to attain success. Even if they put forth a lame effort, then that can be a teachable moment. Lame effort doesn't lead to success.

When I (poorly) attempted sbg before, I surveyed my students at the end of the year to ask why they didn't come in to reassess. The answers that stuck with me the most were that students didn't know when to come in, if they did come in they didn't know what they were expected to do, and they figured if they didn't know how to do it the first time then how would taking it again help?

I hope that this plan will help solve those problems.

What else? Oh, I figure I will put graph paper on the back of the paper for questions that pertain to graphing. Did the form seem clear and easy to understand? Of course I will explain it all but I hope to have a pile in the classroom that students can grab and fill out at any time. I think (hope) this form will hold me accountable for giving specific feedback. How can students make corrections without it?

I'm finishing up my Algebra II pacing guide and then I will start writing assessments. I have the Kuta software so I think that will help when it comes to reassessments. I can click a button and all the numbers change. Yay. But there are definitely things Kuta doesn't offer that I will have to write myself. That's my biggest challenge for the moment.

Let's talk about grading for a second, shall we? I really liked the idea @mwmathews mentioned about using words rather than numbers. He mentioned Novice, Apprentice, Practitioner, and Expert. I'm thinking I want to use novice, apprentice, expert, and master. The difference between expert and master to me is that the expert is successful with that specific content but that the master is successful with learning and applying that content. That along with specific feedback seems like it could be really helpful.

Here is where I have two ideas. One is to convert the words to percentages for the grade book. Novice = D, Practitioner = C, Expert = B, Master = A. But then we are still averaging and I don't know how I feel about that.

Two is to calculate the percentage by dividing the number of standards labeled master/expert by the number of standards taught. But then what about a student who gets practitioner every time? He/she would normally be a C student but I wouldn't be counting those at all. What then?

Can you help me think of pros and cons for these methods? I'm really leaning toward the second one because it just seems more fair. Although, I'm not sure how that would work with my online grade book. That may limit me to the first method. What do you think?

A few other teachers mentioned that they grade holistically. I'm not sure how that would work since my brain is soooo analytical. Can you make a generic holistic rubric that works for any content?

My homework was to take my chapter 1 test and cut it apart, sorting into piles by standard. I don't know if I will actually do that yet. I would rather just start over- I like a clean start. But maybe I will work on a holistic rubric instead.



  1. "He/she would normally be a C student but I wouldn't be counting those at all. What then?"

    That's the whole point. You're not trying to recreate the exact same results with a different record-keeping system. You're trying to change what it means to be a C student (or a B student or an A student).

    If a student has never become an expert in anything at all, have they really learned much in the class? Should they be allowed to stop with that shoddy understanding? Or should there be something pushing them toward ever increasing understanding and expertise?

  2. Thank you for that comment. This is the perspective I needed; I couldn't figure it out through my own eyes.

  3. I love the steps 1-10. That's the most concise explanation of SBG I have seen. Thanks!

    Since I am assuming you have implemented this in the past 6 weeks at your school, can I ask about your experience with the students who seriously lack motivation? I allow students to do corrections on grades below an 80% right now, but its always the same students putting in that extra effort, and I have 6-8 students who couldn't care less about their D or F in math class. I don't know how to get through to them :(

    1. Yes, unfortunately I haven't seen it improve motivation for those students. I'm thinking of doing one day for reassessments for the entire class, just so they can see it is a non-threatening process and can make a huge difference in their grade.

      I'm also going to send home a letter to parents about the grading/reassessment process around the same time that first quarter grades go out and PT conferences roll around.

      That's all I've come up with so far.

  4. I've just found your blog, and this is all very interesting. we are slowly going to SBG in my district but are way behind where y'all are. My concern is the comment about accepting students as C students, and their 'shoddy' understanding...I work mainly with that population who works there heart out, but just struggles to get their grade level expectations. I and my district hold high expectations for all our students, but some children, through no fault of their own, are never going to be A (or even B) students. This is one of the things that troubles me about the whole SBG system.

    1. Meiriwyn,
      I think the problem is that we will have those C students with shoddy understanding no matter what. This system is not a way to necessarily fix that but to better diagnose that. Before, getting a C meant you would try to better the next time. Now, a C would be assigned to a specific concept; it pinpoints weaknesses and highlights strengths. That makes it easier for us and less overwhelming to them to remediate. Before there were no second chances, now there are.

      I'm thinking that next year I will require all students who get a 1 (equivalent to a 55%) to re-test. I'm going to keep track of the amount of 1's I had this year and compare it to the number of 1's next year to decide if that strategy is effective.

      If some students will never be A or even B students, then this grading system will not fix that but it will make it easier to diagnose.