SBG: My Definition

Disclaimers: I did not invent Standards Based Grading, I did not come up with this system 100% on my own, I was/am a huge advocate for it in classrooms, and I do love Dan Meyers. Also, this is all my opinion. I will site things when necessary so you know I am not just making things up.

This is the true story… of one teacher… picked to teach at school… teach math and decide to blog about it… to find out what happens… when people stop doing the usual… and start getting creative…

I grew up in the 2000’s so Real World was kind of a big deal to me once we got MTV at my house… and I started hiding that I was watching it because my mom thought it was trashy.


So you’ve read what I was feeling was wrong with my classroom, and how I found a way to “fix” it that worked for my students and I.  Wondering what Standards Based Grading is?

In the words of some experts, SBG “involves measuring students’ proficiency on well-defined course objectives.”

In the words of me… SBG is a method of grading where a students grade is a reflection of what they know, not what they have done in class all year.  When a student looks at their grade they are getting immediate feedback as to how they are doing in the class.  They don’t need to look at a certain category, like “Quizzes” or “Tests” to see what they know.  Right away, students see how much they are currently understanding.  A student’s grade becomes similar to when you read a thermometer, and get a gauge as to how you feel.  When a student looks at their grade they get a little “check up” and can see overall how they are doing.  When they look at each individual grade in the grade book, they see what they have learned and what they haven’t gotten yet.  They can keep track of what they still need to learn.  It also gives students time to learn it at their own pace (to a certain degree).  Not every kid learns each objective at the same speed.  SBG differentiates by gives students time to process it on their own schedule.  If they don’t get it right away, they can learn it, and their grade will reflect that.

“Guiding Principles” or “what I try to make sure I am doing”

– Students know what a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 means in terms of what they know.

– Grades are purely based on what students know, not if it was on time and not if they got extra credit.  When assessing, it should be clear what objective they are being tested on.

– It’s ok if all your kids get an objective the first time you test them on it- that is a good thing!  To me, that means that I did everything right and the assessment was timed appropriately.  Or it means that it was an easy objective for them.

– What goes into the grade is purely assessment.  What goes into the grade book can be whatever you need as you keep track of other things, but don’t necessarily affect a grade.  Use comments in the grade book if you need to communicate something to parents.

– I care that a kid learns the material, not necessarily when.  I know that kids have stuff going on in their lives and they have off weeks.  I know that sometimes (especially with 12-14 year olds learning Algebra) they just don’t get something right away.  I give kids 2 opportunities within class time to show me they have got it, and then they can come in for a requiz.  They don’t get penalized or earn less points for requizzing.

– Kids not being “good at school” should not factor into their grade.  That is just an opportunity for helping them learn how to get “good at school.”  While I have kids keep a journal, I do not do notebook quizzes or checks.

If you have some time, check out Integrating Differentiated Instruction & Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe.  It’s an easy read and will hopefully reassure you that everything you have been doing is effective, and that converting to an SBG classroom is an easy fit.

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3 Responses to SBG: My Definition

  1. Pingback: SBG: The Benefits | some become pearls

  2. emismith13 says:

    Hi! I am thinking about implementing SBG, and one question that I have is about the timeliness of everything… I am nervous that if I don’t penalize my students for turning in work late, then they just won’t do it at all… the students at my school are not highly motivated, and I am just not sure how to handle that aspect of SBG.
    Thanks for all of your information, though! Your blog posts are becoming a great resource for me as I am researching and planning the implementation of SBG!

    • A Burton says:

      I started it at a new school with a very different population, and when I didn’t explain it well enough at the beginning – they weren’t into it. It was too different and they didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. This year, its going much better! I decided to track the kids on a big poster in my room and now they are into it. They see it better and feel the pressure to keep up!

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