Sunday, June 27, 2010

My foray into SBG

Over the past week, there have been lots of discussions on twitter about implementing Standards Based Grading (SBG). Here is a braindump of my ideas on how to use SBG in my classroom. Feel free to rip it apart, that's the best way for me to learn :)

Main Motivation
I know the current model is broken. I had a situation this year with a student that worked his/her tail off when test day was coming, but that's it. He/She did pass my class, but throughout it all, I just felt slimy. I knew his/her test grade did not reflect his/her knowledge and that really bothered me. Some students "rent" the knowledge until test day, but never "own" the information. I want kids to "own" it. Every year, I struggle with this. I think overall I'm a pretty good teacher and I try to get better every year. I am always thinking of ways that I can be more effective in the classroom and how to better help my students.

Some minor issues:
I am convinced that SBG is the way to go. I want students, parents, and myself to know exactly where students are and what they need to improve on. However, I also have some limitations within my district. We have an online gradebook that we are required to use and we must enter at least one grade per week. Horizontally, we give common finals and benchmark exams. We have a district guide for order of topics and overall pacing and we are supposed to be within a couple of days of the other teachers of the course. To add to this, every year the district surprises us in August with new mandates, so I can't totally go SBG or otherwise, I would just end up extremely pissed in August when the rug is pulled out from under me :)

My plan:
With the above limitations, I have decided a hybrid model based on converstaions with my twitter PLN. Also, I only plan to try this in my Alg2 class for this year. Basically, for this first year, I will be pretty traditional, but more detailed. I will still give an assignment sheet for the chapter, although I will probably break it down a bit more, so that instead of just the lesson title and assignment, I will have the lesson title, then the learning targets (standards) for that lesson and the practice problems for that learning target (LT). As Kate Nowak says "Then, I teach". After a few lessons, I would give a quiz, similar to traditional quizzes, but instead of giving a total grade (13 points earned out of 15), it would be separated by LTs (order of operations, whatever) and a kid would get 3 or 4 different grades for the quiz (one for each LT). Rinse, repeat... Then it comes time for the chapter test. I will probably keep the chapter tests like normal (we will be more than likely moving to common tests there anyway).

Issues I'm still pondering
  • I'm not sure yet how often I will reassess a LT in class - some people do 2 times in class on 2 different quizzes, but time may be an issue, dunno yet
  • I'm not sure how to format my paper gradebook - I use the Whaley 3-line gradebook, but may have to go to a self-created gradebook since quiz grades will now take up 3-4 columns rather than 1
  • I've not discussed this idea with my admin and so I'm not sure how this will go over. I have awesome admin, but we'll see how it goes :)
  • Each LT will receive a grade on a 4 or 5 point scale (not sure yet, I've seen both and still mulling over the idea)
  • I would really like to integrate more application and writing skills into these quizzes rather than just skills based
  • I've seen others comment that kids have a limit on how many LTs they can reassess per day, not sure what I think about that, definitely agree on the "can't reassess on same day as you got help on the LT"
  • I'm worried that with the reassessments, some kids will still "rent" for their low skills, trying to get their grades further up that A/B/C scale
  • The time committment does stress me out a bit. I have 3 preps plus teach at a Div I university - I already spend way too many hours grading and planning. The idea of creating multiple assessments freaks me out.
  • Currently I do "Quick Checks" which are similar to what others call "Homework Quizzes", except I give them the problem rather than saying "write #3 on your paper". I'm thinking these Quick Checks could be part of my quizzing system & can be put on the Promethean, thus helping the copy paper/budget situation
Final Thoughts As you can see, I still have way more questions than answers. I don't know how to fix some of the issues above yet - but I'm working on it. I have my PLN, books by Marzano, Reeves, and other assessment gurus. I will be ready when August arrives :)


KFouss said...

Thanks so much for putting your ideas on "paper"! I'm right where you are in trying to figure out what I'd like to do SBG-wise, but I'm thinking I'll start with the Algebra 2 class. We'll have to commiserate, ahem, collaborate this year! :)


Christiansen said...

Count me in for keeping in touch with you about this. I too am beginning the SBG experiment next year, but with my AP Statistics class. I've started generating a list of skills/LT's which is quite extensive. I'm thinking that one assessment of these LT's is a project that incorporates several LT's. To "grade" these projects I'd do some writing about what was done well/not well, then assign a grade.

A thought to the quizzes that you give. Why not give some questions as "Beginner", some as "Intermediate", and some as "Advanced". To earn a 4/4 for that LT you'd need to successfully complete the "Advanced" question.

Anyway, thanks for the post! Sorry to give you even more ideas to think about. I look forward to collaborating with you.

Matt Townsley said...

You mention recording scores for both quizzes and tests. What is your rationale for doing so? Also, I like the homework quiz idea...I believe that our assessments should closely mirror our instruction/activities as well as the practice & feedback opportunities we provide for our students.

You also mentioned the hurdle of using an online grade book. I can relate to that, but be encouraged, it is only a small bump in the road. The culture of teaching and learning you're creating by making this change matters more than the grades or the grade book. Press on!

iTeach said...

I also really like HW Quizzes or quick checks. I did them in hnrs. geo for the last two years rather than grading or checking HW and it was a lot more authentic than checking for completion. HW Quizzes are also something really easy to move into a SBG system- they are usually on one LT, short, and targeted. I'm keeping mine - they'll just be called skill assessments from now on :)

I like your ideas.. and I know it will be hard to operate in a traditional online gradebook, but like Matt said, it becomes only a small hurdle once you have your system in place. And if you MUST record at least one grade a week, keep in mind the 0% category - it could become a powerful system for keeping track of formative assessment. Just a thought. Keep it up!