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My SBG Pitch

August 5, 2010

S and I will be meeting with B, the assistant principal regarding our proposed SBG schemes for Algebra I and Geometry. We had talked about just going ahead and doing it (better to ask forgiveness than beg permission), but since we don’t operate in a vacuum, I didn’t want to take the risk of having B find out after the fact and being blindsided. In addition, we have a good rep with the special ed. department because all of our scores went up last year. So …

I. What is wrong with the current system?

  • In the regular curriculum, there are homework, quizzes, and tests, which all count towards the student’s grade. There are several problems with this scenario:
    • Even when we only give completion grades for homework, we are still grading practice. It’s as if my old band director had graded me on whether I practiced my flute last night. Practice shouldn’t be graded.
    • Sometimes a student doesn’t understand something on the homework, and so he fails the quiz. Our current “solution” has been to replace quiz grades with test grades, but that practice doesn’t tell us whether the student ever mastered that particular concept. Nor does that give the student much of an incentive to learn the material.
    • Suppose we have two students who both made a 100 on the chapter test. Student 1 got all of the homework and aced all of the quizzes. Student 2 didn’t do most of the homework and bombed a couple of the quizzes. Because he came by for help, he caught on by the time the test was given. Why should Student 2 have a lower grade than Student 1?
    • Because math is always building on earlier concepts, a concept that a student may have bombed earlier is now easier for him. Too bad — the test has been given.
    • When a student makes a 75 on a test, what does that mean? Does it mean:
      • He missed 1/4 of the problems.
      • He got all of the problems right except for this one concept in which he missed all of the problems.
      • He understood all of the concepts, but he made some careless mistakes.
      • He really failed the test, but because he got the bonus problems correct, he made a passing grade.
      • The whole class bombed the test, so the teacher square-root curved the grades. He really made a 56.

II. What is different about SBG?

  • SBG stands for “Standards-Based Grading”, and while there are several different definitions for it, at its core it represents a change in the way students are assessed. In SBG, the important goal is how well the student masters a concept or skill, not when (or if) the skill is mastered.
  • The curriculum is broken down into a group of standards (or concepts, or objectives, etc.). These concepts are then taught and assessed. It is a much more itemized list than just “Chapter 3 – Parallel Lines”.
  • One of the key tenets of SBG is a more focused assessment policy. Instead of a “Chapter 3 Test”, there are assessments for each of the standards in chapter 3. Thus, we (and the student) can see that he really understands Angles Formed by Transversals, but he is weak on Parallel and Perpendicular Slopes.
  • Because SBG is more about mastering the concept than when it is mastered, students are allowed to reassess any concept they haven’t mastered. There are some practical limitations on this idea (end of the grading period, etc.), but it’s certainly more than they can do now.
  • As educators, we like to talk about teaching kids to be “life-long learners”. SBG actually provides a framework to help this goal. Because the concepts are so delineated, students can see where their weaknesses are. And because SBG allows for multiple assessments, students are encouraged to continue trying to build mastery.

III. What will our implementation of SBG look like?

  • We will generally be following the same sequence as everyone else (the same schedule we followed last year). Also, our focus on hands-on notetaking (foldables) won’t change.
  • The big change will be in the assessments. About every three objectives, we will give an quiz over those objectives and the three previous ones (every objective is quizzed twice, once at a basic level, once at a more advanced level). The sequence would be teach 1,2,3, quiz 1,2,3, teach 4,5,6, quiz 1,2,3,4,5,6, teach 7,8,9, quiz 4,5,6,7,8,9, etc.
  • Students will receive a grade for each objective on the quiz (six objectives -> six grades). Grades will be on a 0-4 scale.
  • 4 Demonstrates thorough understanding
    3.5 High level of understanding, but with small errors (computation, etc.)
    3 Demonstrates understanding, but with significant gaps
    2 Shows some understanding, but insufficient for a passing grade
    1 Attempts the problem
    0 No attempt
  • If a student makes the same or higher on the second assessment, that becomes their grade; otherwise, their grade is the average of the two assessments. Any student who has not made a 4 on the second assessment can re-take a quiz for that objective until he makes a 4.
    • Re-takes must be done either before or after school or during lunch.
    • Students may not re-take more than one quiz per day.
    • Students can either come by for tutoring or re-takes, not both on the same day.
    • If a student has a 1 or lower, he may not re-take the quiz without coming in first for tutoring.
    • The deadline for re-takes is the last Thursday of the six-weeks.
  • Our grading scheme is thus going to be:
  • Algebra 1 Geometry
    Quizzes 50% 60%
    Tests (6Wks and CA) 30% 30%
    Notebook Check 10% 10%
    Class Participation 10%
  • We don’t want to take a grade on the homework, but we want to give them some sort of incentive to do it. Therefore, we’ll give them a tenth of the percentage of the homework that they do as a bonus grade (if they do all the homework on time, that would add 10 points to their grade).
  • Because we’re eliminating the chapter tests, that gives us at least 12 additional instructional days for the year (the test review days are eliminated as well).
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