SBG Update

OK. I haven’t talked much about Standards-Based Grading (SBG) since last September. I’ve changed some things about how I implement SBG, which I shall describe here, along with how things went.

Geometry, Fall 2010

Here’s how I set up my Geometry class procedures–SBG-related, anyway–for my fall semester class. We had thirty-two skills, which were mostly assessed in class three times each. I converted students’ SBG grades into a percentage for reporting out by first averaging them and then using a cubic relationship (the third one from this post) to match that average to a traditional percent scale.

The students pretty much did not initiate any re-assessment. Less than five skills were retaken outside of class time. I think for the most part they were confident that, between the next two in-class retakes, they would improve just by being in class and doing the daily assignments and warm-up reviews. But even if they didn’t improve (or even regressed), the students did not seek out help nor did they come in to re-assess. They were content just to let the 1 or 2 be averaged in. And mostly their scores were high, in the 80s [those who attended class anyway].

Algebra 2 with Trigonometry, Spring 2011

For several reasons, including combating this apathy about un-mastered skills, for my spring Algebra 2 with Trigonometry (A2T) class I made a major change in how I converted SBG skills grades into percentages. Instead of averaging grades and then scaling, I set cut-offs of how many skills need to be mastered to earn a particular grade. Rubric here. This was also in part prompted by criticism of averages as being antithetical to the nature of SBG by the Science Goddess and @mthman.

Other than this big change in grading, I mostly kept the same procedures from fall to spring. There were more skills (blog posted here in draft form, final form here), so we only visited each skill twice in class via our weekly quizzes.

Many more students re-assessed this semester. But many waited until it was too late to seriously improve their grade. For this reason, and because we only assessed each skill in class twice instead of three times, grades were generally lower this semester than in my fall geometry class.

And there were still a few students who seemed lackadaisical about their lack of skills mastery and never came in to re-assess even though they were failing or scraping by with a D-. Perhaps I didn’t motivate them well enough by extolling the glories of SBG and how it revolutionizes grading? Can anyone refer me to a motivational-type speech you use with your students about how SBG helps them?

Another new piece is that I had set some prerequisite skills (mostly from Algebra 1 but a few from Geometry) that in my mind are so fundamental and which the main skills of A2T build upon. To promote my students’ review of these prerequisites so that I could help them build new skills upon that foundation, I required that students master these prerequisites before they would score any points for core skills (again see the rubric I used). But many students did not really take the prerequisites seriously. By which I mean, they did not review work from Algebra 1, and make sure all prerequisites were mastered within the first week. Some waited until the middle of the quarter to remediate the prerequisites, others until the last week of the quarter–finally being motivated to fix them then so they didn’t fail.

Is it fair for me to set this separate category of skills without which they cannot earn any points? I thought so, since they should not be in an Algebra 2 class without being able to understand key Algebra 1 material. If it is fair, how can I make the students understand the value of the prerequisites in supporting further learning and make sure to really review and master them the first week? Could I refuse to let them sit for other quizzes (on core A2T skills) until their prerequisites are mastered? Or should I get rid of the distinction between core and prerequisite skills entirely?

I welcome your thoughts and criticisms.

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1 Comment

Filed under math, teaching

One response to “SBG Update

  1. Prereqs are important, but if they are truly prerequisite, then the students will naturally not earn points on the newer skills, and so there is no need for an artificial separation.

    What would make more sense is to have a review/new split, and only allow review skills to be done in the first 2 or 3 weeks. If they don’t have them done by then, they should be transferred back to the course that they didn’t master. Keeping them in a class they are not prepared for is not fair to the rest of the class, who will be held back by the unprepared students.

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