What is standards based grading?
If you’ve been somehow out of the loop on this one, standards based grading (SBG) is a way of delivering instruction and assessing learning. It is different from traditional grading because teachers must look at the standards for their course and create assignments that specifically teach those skills and content. The students are aware of how they are being graded based on a rubric. This rubric provides levels of understanding for each standard or skill.
SBG vs. Traditional
What does SBG look like?
SBG grading rubrics can look very different depending on the grade level or subject level you teach. Below, you’ll see a portion of my unit rubric for Grade 6 Space. My school uses AERO standards which align with Common Core. And, these standards are VERY skills based, but the skills that students must be able to do require that they have A LOT of background content knowledge. SOOO…how do I manage that?
What should I have on my SBG rubric?
Well, again, each classroom will look different, but there are specific criteria to make sure and follow.
- Use achievement level descriptors – I use advanced, proficient, emergent, and novice. Why? Because when you look up these words in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary they define the level of understanding EXACTLY. Now, I understand that these words will not work for lower elementary, so get creative!
- Use student friendly language, ex. “I can” statements. Notice, I still have to update mine to reflect that. 🙂
How can SBG and rubrics be used realistically in the classroom?
Well, here’s how I use them:
At the beginning of each unit, I go over the standards with the students. I give each student their own rubric. Throughout the unit, as students complete tasks/assignments/etc…I mark their level of understanding based on the evidence they’ve
given me. Throughout the unit, each individual rubric has marks ALL OVER IT! Then, to finalize each unit, students or student groups present their knowledge. During this presentation, I grab their rubric and mark ALL OVER IT some
more. Thus, by the end of the unit, the student and I can see how the level of understanding for each standard throughout the unit.
I should also state that I change colors every time I mark and date each color. 😉 Yeah, I guess you could say I’m organized. 😛
Now, for you to use them in the classroom, it’s a HUGE mindset shift. You have to really wrap your head around the fact that you are no longer grading effort or lateness of work or behavior. Those are character traits that will (in most cases) affect a student’s grade anyways. In my experience, if you don’t put in the effort and hard work, then you don’t get the results you’re looking for.
What do my students think of SBG?
As I’ve said before, I am in a school that does not have a defined grading system. So, each teacher can give grades willy-nilly as they deem necessary. I am the only teacher using SBG. WHICH MEANS that the students had NO CLUE what in the world it was and how their grade was determined.
For the entire first unit, I had students asking about their grade and they were shocked and upset when I told them, “I don’t know”. They said, “how can you not know?”. I politely asked them the very same thing. I have to admit that even at the end of the year, I still had students that complained, “I still don’t understand my grade.” However, I did not have a complaint as to what the grade actually was when reports came out. Likewise, students were more focused throughout the year on achieving higher levels to reach advanced than an “A”, and even more focused on showing their level of understanding.
I even had students that WANTED and ASKED to stay after class or come in during lunch to have conversations with me. These were, basically, oral quizzes.
Your Challenge: Do you use SBG? What are your thoughts, opinions, and experiences? Did I leave something out? If you don’t use SBG, are you going to give it a go? Share your reservations or ideas below!
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