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?



4 thoughts on “SBG in a points-based world

  1. I only use a 3-point scale (due to the difficulties in going “above and beyond” at this point in my SBG adventure) in both of my AP classes (Stats and Calc). My goal is proficiency in the standards provided by AP (and added to by me), so my transformation works something like this:

    3 = 100%
    2= 80%
    1 = 60%
    0= 40%

    Our school uses 70% as passing, and we can’t give quarter/semester grades lower than a 40%. My scale was a bit higher when I first started, but then I was thinking about it, and students getting 1s don’t get the material, but were passing, so I bumped it down a smidge.

    I average all my standards together equally to create their course score using: 40 + 20(average).

    Thus, if their average amongst all standards/substandards is 2.4, they get an 88%. After seeing what my SBG scores convert to as percentages, it’s about where I would expect them on the 100% scale. Things haven’t been too dramatically off.

    Hope this helps.

  2. This post really resonates with me–this is the exact same dilemma I faced my first year of using SBG. I tell students now that all of the objectives can’t be assessed at advanced mastery (what I call a level 5). What I do at the end of the unit is give them a “level 5 opportunity” that encompasses the objectives that can be assessed at a level 5. This is usually a student self-designed lab (all students do them) or a PBL project. Then, at the end of the semester, students have the opportunity to provide advanced mastery evidence on the ePortfolios and blogs they work on all semester. All of my beyond proficiency activities are projects of some kind, because I bill that level of understanding at “knowing it, owning it, and using it,” and I have found students can’t use and apply knowledge in new and unknown situations using traditional assessments.

    I hope this helps!

    1. This is totally awesome! I ended up using a variation of this:

      I will be offering an “Expert Opportunity” for any standards I didn’t assess at the expert level. To qualify, a student must assess as proficient or better on previous assessments. (I keep the two most recent assessment results.) They can optionally attempt the Expert Opportunity without fear of penalty – their grade won’t go down. Hopefully this will encourage students to go beyond, without making it required.

  3. Not sure if this is helpful or what you are getting at…But, my learning goals based on our State Standards are already broken into “beginning”, “proficient”, and “expert” levels. Here is a brief example:

    Learning goal 3.4:
    Level 4 (Expert)=I can solve problems using the appropriate gas law models. This means I can correctly choose and calculate changes in pressure, volume, and temperature using given conditions…
    Level 3 (Proficient)=I can identify why properties of a gas have changed. This means that I can create an accurate particle model, analyze, and identify the correct graphical model related to the gas laws producing changes in gas properties….
    Level 2 (Beginning)=I can predict how physical properties of a gas will change in various situations. This means I can accurately predict how changing pressure, volume, or temperature will increase, decrease or not affect the other variables.

    So, I can ask all Levels of questions at appropriate times and know where students are. So I have already established the “expert” level questions ahead of time…no need for extra. This is a modified idea from Marzano “Formative Assessment and Standard-Based Grading”. Hopefully this kind of makes sense and was even slightly helpful 🙂

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