Tuesday, July 15, 2014

SBG Assessments

This is the next post in my attempt to explain how I've implemented Standards Based Grading into my classroom. This is on assessments. Not the actual grading of them, but more the details and structure of what I do.

In making the switch, my actual teaching didn't change all that much but all the rest did though. In the past I followed a textbook or unit of some kind. Periodically we'd have a quiz or two during the unit as a way to wrap up the section before moving on. At the end, I'd give a unit/chapter test on it all. Then repeat. After the quiz I'd be sure to tell them that all this was going to be on the test again so if they did poorly they better review it and/or ask for help. But that was it. If they did horrendous or something I'd probably make a point to make time to work with them. But the kids that passed with a 70 or 80 just moved on even though they probably had a good amount to work on too.

So instead, now my assessments follow along with my skill lists. We quiz often. And then we keep quizzing on the same things. Depending on what the skills are, sometimes I'll chunk them in a way that makes some sort of sense but on the quiz it is very clear what is being assessed with each question.

Instead of something like "Chapter 6 quiz 1" they will get a quiz with different sections that looks something like this:

(Format courtesy of Jessica!)

Another change is that I now tend to assess a skill much sooner after teaching it than I would have in the past. I don't worry that they're going to bomb it because I'd like them to have some concrete feedback sooner rather than later so both they and I know where they stand. I know that we're going to keep working and reassess the skills so it's not a huge deal if they don't do fantastic the first time around. Instead of the quiz acting as an endpoint to the unit it's become more of a starting point. The kids can identify their strengths and weaknesses early on.

I tell my kids that they can request a reassessment at any time but in reality with the group I have it just doesn't happen. So typically I'm the one that guides reassessment. Pretty much every time they assess on material, it will also have "old skills" on it too. How many I put on there depends on a couple things. 
  • If as a class they ask for something to be on there, I'll put it on. 
  • If I look at their grades and they're mostly all strong in something I'm less likely to include it.
  • If there's a lot of new material and it's too long already I'll skip old material.
  • I reassess on new skills a minimum of twice.
  • At the end of the unit (before the unit exam) I include all the skills. Before this they'll usually get a couple class days of "free time" that they use to work on their personal areas of weakness. Often the end of the unit will include 2 of these big assessments. 
A unit's worth of quizzes might look something like this:
  1. Skill 1
  2. Skills 1-4
  3. Skills 5-8
  4. Skills 1-8
  5. Skills 9-12
  6. Skills 1-12
  7. Skills 1-12 again
Every one of these has different questions. This takes a good amount of time on my part. Typically I'll give more questions for a skill when it is new. As we've quizzed on it a number of times I don't feel that I need as many questions to get an idea of what they know.

If a kid is absent on a quiz day it's up to them if they want to make it up. I don't particularly mind if they skip it because I know they'll have plenty of other chances. It also makes my life easier to not have to worry about scheduling make ups. 

Some people do wonderful sounding things with assessing. I really liked the idea of having the kids fill out a request to retest. I was going to do something like that, but it's just too much for me to coordinate right now. Also I tried it and kids just didn't take the initiative to ask for quizzes. They do have the motivation to work for it and when I offer they requizzes they definitely take advantage of it. So it's just easier for me to manage it. There are of course exceptions. A handful of my kids are very motivated to come outside of class and ask for help and to requiz so for them I'll make up a short assessment when they ask. Or sometimes I'll make an exception and give them an old skill quiz- this is usually only if I look and it's one that they bombed or left blank the first time. 

I also think it's amazing how some people give their students freedom in reassessing. Letting them choose how to reassess or a way demonstrate what they know. I'm just not there yet...baby steps. But there have been exceptions. A couple times when I've had a kid 1-on-1 instead of quizzing them I'll just have a conversation to assess what they know and I'll change their scores accordingly. The couple times that I was able to do this I thought it was pretty cool so ultimately I'd like to be able to do more of that. Eventually.

So again...this is what works for me right now. Certainly not the one right way to do it, but I'm happy with it and it seems my kids liked it too.


  1. Thank you for all the work you have done with SBG. I have been looking for a process similar to this for years. I have one question that I have not seen answered in any of your posts:
    If a student has shown mastery, do they still need to do the assessment of that skill?

    1. Not on reassessments, no. But everyone has to take the unit exams which cover mostly everything and can't be retaken

  2. Is the reassessment the same format as the original quiz, just with different questions? Thanks!

    1. Yep. And I make up different questions, not just the same ones with numbers changed

  3. How do you grade re-assessments? If a student fails, and re-tests with a higher grade, do you give them the higher grade, average the grade, or give a maximum grade for re-assessing? If a student already has a decent grade but wants to re-test, do you give them the higher grade? How do you show in your electronic grade book if a student's grade on a test was a second or third attempt? My concern is some students are very competitive and want the highest grade possible for their cumulative GPA. Is it fair to give them a 100 on a quiz if it took them three times to get it compared to someone who got it the first time?