SBG in a points-based world

I jumped into SBG (standards based grading) in high school chemistry with both feet this year. So far it’s been pretty OK. Some grading is taking longer, but I’m pretty happy with the results. Not all of my students get that it’s about learning, not about points.

I could use a little advice, or at least some ideas, if you are reading this. Here’s the setup.  I am currently the only teacher in my building that is using SBG. Our grading software is a percentage based system, so I’ve equated my levels of mastery to point values:

Expert – 100% – Goes beyond what was taught.

Proficient – 94% – can do what was taught without error

Competent – 85% – makes errors in application of concepts

Learning – 75% – shows evidence of a significant conceptual error

Beginning – 60% – shows evidence of multiple conceptual errors

I have prettier words for these things, but this is the general idea. If  anyone is interested, I’ll post more details.

Here’s the dilemma. Some of the assessments I give don’t provide an opportunity for students to go beyond the proficient level. It’s sometimes difficult to come up with questions that go beyond what was taught while still staying in bounds of  the standards. Also, those questions tend to lend themselves to longer format answers, which increases grading time and effort.  Further, putting a question on an assessment that most students can’t answer adds to the length of an assessment for little effect except for the few students who can do it.

On one hand, I like that there is space for students who excel to get credit for that, so I like to differentiate the expert level. On the other hand, my sense of fairness tugs at me when the assessment gives no chance to get the expert level. So what to do? Some ideas are:

  • ignore the problem, and just say not all assessments go beyond proficient;
  • for those assessments, assign expert level if they get it all correct
  • make the mastery level standard out of 94 rather that 100 for those questions
  • what else?