Wednesday, June 8, 2011

SBG - Reflections on SY 2010/11

Last summer was a changing point for me as an educator. Fed up with my then method of grading, irritated at the "points-game" that my students played, and a lack of consistency in grading amongst teachers led me to reach out to the twitter/blog-o-sphere to build a better mouse trap. As a result, I became drunk on the Standards Based Grading (SBG) Kool-aid and I'm so glad I did.

If you go back and read the posts from last summer, you will see a lot of uncertainity in my posts as I tried to figure out how to best implement SBG in my classroom. Now that a full year has gone by, I want to provide some information on implementation, what worked for me and what didn't, and how I plan to modify it for next year.

Disclaimer #1: I only did SBG in my Algebra 2 classes and I'm still working out the details on how to implement in my AP classes for this upcoming year

Disclaimer #2: I am writing this post with the assumption you are already familiar with the basics of SBG. If not, I would definitely recommend Robert Marzano's Classroom Assessment and Grading that Works. A lot of my ideas are borrowed from his research.

How SBG works in my classroom...
At the beginning of a chapter, students are provided with an assignment sheet (Click HERE) which has a list of Learning Targets (LTs) and practice problems for each LT. In general, the LTs were from the lesson objectives of my textbook, but I did sometimes combine or even eliminate smaller objectives. For each LT, I broke down the traditional assignment from the textbook to 5 or so problems per LT, trying as hard as I could to provide a range of difficulty for each LT. I also tried to select odd problems so the students would have access to the answers in their textbook.

After 2-3 lessons (roughly 4-5 LTs), we would have a quiz over the material. Each LT had 3 problems, the first one was fairly straightforward and basic, the second problem was of average difficulty, and the third problem was of more advanced difficulty, often asking them to apply their knowledge in a new way or combining multiple skills. (Click HERE to see a sample quiz). Each LT was graded as a C (for Correct), P (for Partial), or I (for Incorrect). The C/P/I's were then combined for a rubric scale grade for each LT, with the more advanced problem's score weighing a bit heavier than the basic problem's score. I used a 4 point rubric, which I then converted to a 10 point "gradebook" grade due to limiations with my district gradebook.

In general:
CCC = 4 = 10/10 - You totally have this concept mastered!
CCP = 3.5 = 9/10 - You are almost there, just a minor error (usually a sign issue!)
CCI = 3 = 8.5/10 - You've got a pretty good grasp on the material
CPP = 2.5 = 8/10
CII = 2 = 7/10 - You have a basic understanding of the material
PPP = 1.5 = 6.5/10
PPI = 1 = 6/10 - There is a glimmer of knowledge of the concept
III = 0.5 = 5/10 - You have no clue, but you gave a valid effort
--- = 0 = 0/10 - You left it blank or no valid effort
**Note, not all combinations of C/P/I are listed... this is just a general guideline of what I did. Sometimes a CPP was a 3 depending on the strength of the Partial.

The night of a quiz, I went home and graded them, then recorded them in my gradebook on the 0-4 scale. I kept a paper gradebook (Blank copy HERE) because I wanted to keep track of student scores and reassessments, plus we don't have online access to our gradebooks at home :) Each square in the gradebook is large enough to write several scores, so it worked well for me. (See Sample GB HERE)Probably the most difficult thing for me was that I've always been a slow grader so I really didn't know how well I would do at getting quizzes back the next day. However, after a few quizzes, I was amazed at how speedy it was to grade, and so it wasn't the dreaded chore that it had been in the past.

The next day I handed the students back their quizzes. On the first few quizzes, I took the time to re-explain the system and what the rubric score meant. I really think that the time I took to model and explain the SBG system paid off in more ways than I could have expected. In the past, students had looked at their overall grade and then thrown their quiz away (or in their backpack, never to see the light of day again). However, with SBG, students really took the time to read the feedback, do an error analysis, check with a buddy to compare methods of solving, and rarely did I find a quiz in my trash can or recycle bin. In fact, most students kept their quizzes in their binders, in numerical order and even in May, they were able to produce quizzes from the fall semester when they were asked to. I had *never* had that happen in the past!

After the students received their quizzes, we discussed as a class what it meant to remediate and reassess. We talked about their score was a reflection of the mastery they had demonstrated, and if they felt their mastery had improved, then they needed to come in to demonstrate that improvement to me. On my podium was a weekly sign-up sheet (Click HERE for a blank copy) for students to schedule reassessments. I only allowed reassessments on three days of the week so I would have some off time for tutoring, meetings, etc. We also have a built in Advisory period on Thursdays that students could come in, but since I already had 20 Advisory students, I limited reassessments to the first 10 students that signed up.

When a student showed up for reassessment, they had to provide me proof of remediation. The idea behind this was that I didn't want them wasting my time or theirs on reassessment if they had not put any effort into mastering the material. Initially, I had planned that their remediation would be the practice problems from the assignment sheet, but as the year went on, that idea was modified to include an error analysis of their quiz, notes/problems worked with a tutor, etc. Overall, I was pleased with how students handled their remediation. As the year progressed, you could definitely see the students taking more control of their learning as they decided the amount and type of remediation they needed to do in order to master the material. We did have a few big rules regarding reassessment - the students could only do the LTs from a single quiz during a single session, and they could not received tutoring and reassess during the same session. These rules helped us keep our sanity and helped with the short-term memory issue :)

The Lessons We Learned
I was really shocked and amazed at how easy parent communication became with SBG. Since their grades were totally based on quizzes, there were no discussions on extra credit, turning things in late, etc. The gradebook was laid out in a very clear manner about their student's level of mastery per objective, so most parent questions were easily addressed.

At first, I was really dreading the actual grading, but I quickly adapted and overall I ended up with less to grade, yet able to provide my students with more specific and detailed feedback about what they knew or didn't know. I was also able to grade much faster, which let me have more time for planning interesting lessons.

In our original design, we had planned to continue with traditional chapter/unit tests, but this quickly went by the wayside. Part of this was a time issue, part of it was keeping all of the terminology straight, and part of it was just that traditional tests didn't seem to fit in well. We ended up going to just quizzes, which were every 5-8 class days and it worked out just fine in the end.

Definitely have a partner to try this with! If I had gone at it alone, I would have bombed out early just from being overwhelmed. However, I had spent most of last summer reading, researching, blogging, tweeting, discussing SBG before I ever stepped into my classroom. Having Neighbor Teacher there to try it with me, to help shoulder the responsibilities of writing quizzes, coming up with LTs and Practice Problems, asking advice while scoring a quiz was simply invaluable.

Changes for Next Year
One change I would definitely like to make for next year is an easier way for students to keep track of their scores. The assignment sheet has boxes for this, but I wasn't very good at insisting that students write their original score and their reassessment scores in those boxes. I need to look at some of the other blogs to see what they do for student recording.

I would also like to look into using tiered remediation. In other words, if you scored a 3.5, you only had a single minor error, so you don't need to do as much remediation as a person that scored a 0.5. I'm not sure that I could keep up with this paperwork, but I did have a few kids that did the minimum amount for remediation and then were shocked when their reassessment still wasn't very good!

Would I do it again?
Heck yeah! This was a long process but SO worthwhile. I've grown professionally through this process and I don't regret a minute of it. I just hope that this record of my journey helps someone out there as they start sipping the Kool-aid :)


ambercaldwell said...

I noticed the questions at the bottom of the quiz labeled as past learning. I really like the idea of having those questions. Do you count those as a grade of is it just for feedback? If you do count them as a grade, do you change their past grade on that learning target?

druin said...


For the first few quizzes, it was just for feedback. However, past that, we tried to create "forced reassessment" by putting LTs that the majority of the class had struggled with. In that case, it did change their past grade on that LT. This was a practice that we got away from 2nd semester, but definitely want to put back into place this next year.

enzuber said...

Ain't it just the best idea you've ever seen for encouraging students to approach learning without fear and anxiety? My students have from hating maths to loving it - seriously!

nyates314 said...

I agree about having students show proof of remediation as a tool for teacher sanity and student. Too often I've had students show up to retake a quiz or a skill without having done anything (only the hope that trying again will make it better).

For students tracking their own grades, I use the bar graph method, adapted from Dan Meyer. This allows students to see progress (a 2 bar shades in higher to become a 3 bar after a student demonstrates an improved understanding of a skill). But, like you, I need to be better at insisting my students keep track of this. Some did and really saw the value of reassessments and keeping track of which skills they had mastered; others didn't and just brought in their latest quiz to retake a skill they had missed.

You said, "I really think that the time I took to model and explain the SBG system paid off in more ways than I could have expected.". This is where I failed this year with SBG -- I didn't explain it enough, or why I was doing it, or how the students could take advantage of it to really take control of their own learning. Can you explain a bit more how you model SBG and how you hook the kids into it?

Bowman said...

Just finished my first year with SBG too. To let the students know their running scores, I used EasyGrade Pro's internet reports. they could log in with a password and their last name whenever they wanted to to check their grades (and see previous scores using the "note" function). another easy way to do this would be sharing a google spreadsheet with them. the only downside is that the students aren't recording them themselves... is that important to you? i haven't decided how important that is to me.

druin said...

I am definiely sold on SBG :)

I like the graph idea - I might try that! As for the modeling, I don't know what I did other than talk to the class about it before and after quizzes, after each "Quick Check" (Formative assessments), and individually talked to the kids if they weren't seeming to get it. I wish I could give you more concrete ideas :(

We have a district mandated online gradebook, but it requires the kids go online to look at it. I wanted more of a way for them to track their reassessments. The more I think about it, I think the bargraph idea from @nyates might just work... #thinking

Thanks all for your comments :)

johnberray said...

I appreciate the meticulous attention to detail in blogging about your SBG experience. I'm about to embark on the same journey, so I am devouring SBG posts like a monster on the loose.

vantv said...

I am diving into SBG research to try and implement it in my Alg 2 classroom next year. I know you haven't taught Alg 2 in a year, but will you continue your SBG method that you had?

Does a LT show up on more than one quiz other than in the previous knowledge section? For example if LT2.1.1 was on Quiz 1...could it show up on Quiz 2 as well?

I am still deciding on what scale to use...did you find the the P C I scale worked as well as you liked?

Thanks for this post! I am sure teachers will be using it as a resource for years to come!

Math Teacher said...

I found the post you mentioned! In this blog you mention having a neighbor teacher to help you. This next year I'd really like to try SBG with my Algebra 1 classes, however it's my first year as a full time teacher (last year I taught 1/5th Algebra 1, but not full time). Would you recommend that I wait a few more years or dive in head first?

druin said...

@MathTeacher -
If you are comfortable, then by all means dive on in! For me, I appreciated having someone to share the workload and to bounce ideas on. In the 2010-11 SY, there were only 2 of us using SBG (neighbor teacher and myself). We gave a presentation on it in May 2011 and during the 2011-12 SY, there were at least 6 of us using it in my department. So even if you start it by yourself, more than likely it will grow to others too :)

druin said...

@john - Thanks!

@vantv - Yes. This year I will be back in Alg2 and will continue the method I had used for the most part. Some people do have LTs show up on more than one quiz. For me, I tended not to do that much other than the previous knowledge. I am thinking this year the previous knowledge section might be a mixed review section for our "End of Course" preparation. I do like the C/P/I scale and felt that it gave a pretty fair representation of the student knowledge. Sometimes it could be a strong partial, so I would give it a P+ and that's where the rare "half points" might come in.