## Thursday, April 3, 2014

### SBG Questions and My Answers

Recently, I received an e-mail asking me to share how I used SBG (Standards-Based Grading) in my classroom.  For those of you who use SBG, feel free to respond to these questions as well either in the comments, or leave a link in the comments if you post about this. Here are the questions posed:

1) How do I convert proficiency to a grade (eligibility, report cards)?
2) How many levels of proficiency?
3) How do I measure proficiency (3/4 problems = proficient?)?
4) How does group work fit in (who gets credit for being proficient)?
5) What counts as having demonstrated proficiency (quizzes/test, classwork)?
6) How do you motivate students to complete projects or other assignments if they have already demonstrated proficiency?
7) How do I create a list of outcomes?
8) How do I track data?
9) How do I communicate data to students/parents?

2) Let me start by answering the second question first.  How many levels of proficiency?  In our department, we use three levels.  Not Yet Proficient (N) is when a student doesn't prove that he has all the skills required for the outcome.  Proficient (P) is when a student does show all the skills required for an outcome.  And High Performance (H) is when a students takes the knowledge from the outcome and applies it.  Before our department started SBG we all sat down and decided what particular skills were needed for each outcome.  We are still tweeking those skills to this day and my guess is that we will still be tweeking until we retire.

1) I know that many schools require number grades and parents want to see those as well.  It helps with eligibility and class rank.  So until everyone becomes more familiar with SBG we will need some way to convert grades.  To convert to a number grade, we start be determining what percent of the outcomes a students is at least Proficient in.  Next, we determine what percent of outcomes the student is High Performance in.  Then we add those two numbers together and finally use the following conversion chart to determine their number grade:

3) How do I measure proficiency (3/4 problems = proficient?)?
You won't be doing any math like this under this particular system.  The reason is because you may have a student get 3/4 of the problems correct, but might be missing some very important skill.  Instead of a certain percent of the problems correct, you will be looking for a certain set of skills.  I want to write about a few different examples.  In both examples you are giving an exam on graphing linear inequalities.  Solid lines, dotted line, graphing lines correctly, and of course shading.

Example 1:  A student does everything correctly on the test, but most of the shading is incorrect.  Under traditional grading the student might pass the test because she received partial credit for the problems.  My issue with this is that this students doesn't understand how to shade an inequality and this is a problem.  She will need that skill for a later outcome.  With this SBG system, the student would be required to retake the test because she didn't prove she knew all of the skills necessary.

Example 2:  A student makes a few careless mistakes on the exam such as miscounting when plotting the y-intercept, or in one problem accidentally uses a positive slope when it should have been negative.  With the traditional grading the student will most likely pass the test, but now it's impossible for the student to receive 100%.  Test cannot be retaken and those careless errors will be holding him back all quarter.  With SBG the teacher asks herself if the student is proving that he has the skills required.  Making a one-time error with slope or carelessly counting doesn't mean the student doesn't know how to graph linear inequalities.  Perhaps he should take more time to look things over though.

4) How does group work fit in (who gets credit for being proficient)?

Personally, I don't grade group work.  However, I do try to hold students accountable to their groups by giving incentives other than grades.  Just recently we used Monopoly Boards in group work.  Sometimes I think the incentive with group work is being able to work with each other.  Also, when there are group members who are not doing their fair share in a group, they are usually the ones who do poorer on the test and that could be considered their 'punishment' for not contributing.

5) What counts as having demonstrated proficiency (quizzes/test, classwork)?

This answer is easy:  Whatever you want to count, will count.  More often than not I use a test to prove proficiency.  That may not be the best way to go about it, but for now it's the easiest thing for me.  I'm actually glad you asked this question because it has forced me to realize that I should broaden my resources in this area.  Perhaps I'll have an update for you later on this.

6) How do you motivate students to complete projects or other assignments if they have already demonstrated proficiency?

One thing that motivates students is getting High Performance.  I do have paper-and-pencil High Performance tests for each of the outcomes I teach, but I also allow and encourage projects.  I am much more diverse for High Performance than I am for Proficiency.

7) How do I create a list of outcomes?

That's the hard part.  Our department spent a lot of time working on our list of outcomes.  They are geared toward our state test, Algebra 1 Keystone Exam.  You are welcome to use those if you like and you can find them here.

8) How do I track data?

You will need to either speak to your IT person or do this manually.  We use to do the grade conversions manually, student by student.  But our IT guy did something (I don't know what) in PowerTeacher so that we can put the grades in there directly.

9) How do I communicate data to students/parents?

This is another problem we still face in our district.  We have tried open meetings, sending e-mails home, sending papers home with the students, asking the students to explain the process to their parents, I have information up on my class website, and I talk about it on meet-the-teacher nights and parent-teacher conferences.  I think we have so much confusion with parents because their child in now in 9th grade and I'm changing the grading system.  Their entire educational careers were based on traditional grading, and at least 9 years of the child's grading was traditional too.  Unfortunately I don't have a great answer for this question.  I believe that many parents become less involved once their child reaches high school.