Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SBG Assessment Questions

For Example A, below I offer an old quiz that I
used to give. Too small to read probably, but you get the idea. It's a regular old quiz on solving equations. I wanted to make sure I really got an idea of what they understood so I made sure to include tons of problems. This guy went on for about five total pages. It's also worth noting that I included 14 different problems on solving equations up front there. I wanted to make sure that if they made a little mistake here or there they still had other opportunities to prove themselves and get a decent grade.

Since I'm no longer giving them a grade thats a percentage, there's no need to throw a ton of questions at them. Instead I can just choose a couple problems that have a number of steps and give them the chance to show me how much they know. Based on how much and what they do I can get a feel for how well they understand each skill.

Something else that I've noticed is that I'm writing questions that are a lot better than they used to be. I can't give questions that are just multiple choice, or yes/no, or one word/number answers because I wouldn't be able to score them. It forces me to come up with questions that ask kids to do more explaining and thinking. More questions that ask them to correct and explain mistakes, or things were I present them with a problem and ask if it would work, or what would happen if this number changed, and so on. For multiple choice questions it's always required to explain why they picked the one they chose or the kind that says pick all the ones that work. That way they have to actually think about it and not just pick something.

I like my new assessments a lot better.

There certainly are a number of questions that require them to just do problems, but along with those are many questions that ask for more. If they don't show work they they're not getting a 4. And I find there's very little argument on that because a 4 means convince me that you know it. It's not an issue of the kid fighting that I marked their question wrong even though it was right. Without any work or an explanation there's no way I'm convinced.

A couple more examples.



The questions address the same skills but in a very different ways. In the old quiz I'm just looking to see if they can do it right or not. The SBG quizzes have a lot more questions but they're also probably spread out more over time. I'm not looking for just a right/wrong answer I'm looking to get out of them what they know. I also try to be careful to write questions that address the skills. I separated defining a variable and writing an equation because some kids might struggle with one and not the other and I want them to know where to focus their efforts. So in the question that asks to write an equation I defined the variable for them. 

Also a lot of questions get based on common mistakes. My kids kept trying to define a variable for a fixed amount so I spend time trying to explain why that doesn't make sense. That's why that question is there. They also mixed up the order of subtraction in translating expressions so that type of question showed up twice.

I think it's worth noting that these writing better questions is in no way synonymous with SBG. It was just an unexpected side effect for me. Since I was trying to assess their understanding if forced me to come up with and/or find questions that let me do that. 


  1. Thank you for taking the time to write about how you transitioned into standards based grading. It has been very helpful to me as I am trying to begin doing more SBG.

  2. Hi Sarah-
    I am beginning my first year teaching 6th grade math using the Connected Math 3 series in Sept. I love the idea of standards based grading but I'm not quite sure how you would implement it while sticking to a textbook curriculum because it tends to jump around standards as well as cover certain standards over many units. Do you have any suggestions for using SBG with textbook curriculums?


    1. The skill lists are something you create, so you can write them however you want to. My skills follow the order of what I teach, they don't relate relate to a textbook or anything else. My "skills" aren't the CCSS standards. This post: explains it more in depth.

  3. Thank you for this, Sarah! I love that your SBG assessments end up giving you CCSS-style assessments. Your questions cover content standards and mathematical practices at the same time. This is exciting to see since I'm in the middle of this whole process right now. Gives me some hope for better-written assessments.

  4. I love this post! I need to alter my assessments and this has motivated me. Would you be willing to share more examples? Thanks!

    1. I may, but unfortunately I'm having troubles lately with the website I use to share files :(