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Standards Based Grading

What is SBG?

Standards Based Grading (SBG) is an assessment technique that provides more detailed information about a student's understanding and progress. With SBG the course material is broken up into a number of standards which discretely define what the student is able to consistently demonstrate as evidence of learning. Every assignment that is given in class is assigned a set of standards, usually only two or three. The student's work is then evaluated against each of the standards and assigned a score for each standard.

The standards and scores provide more comprehensive information about what the student understands to the teacher, the student, and parents. In this way everyone knows where the student is strong, and where the student needs to focus to improve their learning. For example, a progress report may show the following:

Instead of just seeing a grade of 78% on Functions Quiz #2, the student now knows to focus on standards 1.1 and1.2. 

The standards are assessed on a descriptive scale that is usually associated with a numeric score.  For example

 Description  Min Required Score
3 - Excels  2.7
2.5 - Competent  2.5
2 - Developing  2.0
1 - Deficient  0

How are scores and grades determined?

Rubrics are often used to assign scores to standards. For example, in calculus, the following rubric could be used to assess a problem.

Score Evidence
3 Problem is correct
2.5 Calculus is correct and problem complete, but w/minor computational error
2 Calculus is correct but algebraic errors, or problem incomplete
1 Calculus is not correct
0 No Evidence or Attempt

In the end the school district requires a traditional A/B/C/F grade. The individual scores for the standards are combined to generate the final grade that appears on the transcript. As is often the case, different types of assignments such as quizzes, tests, and midterms, may carry different weights when the overall class grade is computed. 

For my classes, my philosophy is that if a student is demonstrating competence in the majority of course standards, they have earned a 'C' for a course. Earning a higher grade requires the student to demonstrate application of the standards in more complex and subtle problems and scenarios, such as the extended section of tests, projects, and midterms.

How can I improve my grade?

Learning is a life-long effort - having only one chance to demonstrate learning isn't realistic, and frankly, is punitive. An important tenet of SBG is allowing students to re-asses the standards. Students will be given several assessment opportunities for each standard during a particular unit. After those assessments, if a student still hasn't demonstrated competence on a standard he or she may request another assessment opportunity. 

Rules for reassessment are:

  1. Student must provide evidence of work towards better understanding of the standard 
  2. Student must schedule a time for reassessment with the teacher in advance
  3. Reassessments can commence after the unit but must be complete before the end of the grading period. 
  4. Only one reassessment attempt may be made per day.
The reassessment is added to the pool of assessments to determine the grade.

Finally, it's important to realize that new knowledge and understanding builds on previous knowledge. Many content and process standards require the student to master previous standards. If a student is demonstrating competence for a higher-level standard, they can prove competence for pre-requisite standard. This is especially true in math.