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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Get Your Hot Fresh SBG Checklists

For the uninitiated, SBG stands for Basing the Grades On Making Sure the Children Get What They Are Supposed to Get. People who are smarter than me have already described it extensively.

All of these were only really tried one time for real because of curricular changes and my-schedule changes. I anticipate people will object to their length. I agree that in some cases, two concepts could be pared down to one. Either I need to do that for next year, or I had a reason. Some of it is just the reality of our curricula - overloaded. Sometime when I was training to be a teacher I was told, "A good teacher is one who knows what to cut." But, I don't know, I wrestle with cutting anything. I have an overdeveloped sense of duty.

The Lists
Algebra 1
Algebra 2 with Trigonometry

More Details
I do about one quiz a week. Sometimes it takes the whole (43 minute) period but usually it doesn't. They see a question about each concept on two separate quizzes. I score them out of five. I give them one point even if they leave a question blank. It makes it easier for me to tell later if they were absent and didn't take the quiz (zeroes) or they just did really badly. So it's like
0 - Didn't take it
1 - Left it blank or wrote absolutely nothing redeeming
2 - Wrote something correct or in the right direction but is essentially clueless
3 - The cluebird has landed, but major conceptual error
4 - Minor conceptual or major computational error
4.5 - Minor computational error
5 - Knows what's up, no kidding.
Our grades are calculated by 1/5s: four marking periods and a regents exam. I tend to cut off remediation opportunities at the end of the marking period for all the concepts up to that point. It just makes sense for us.

The best modification this year was: require that if you are staying after school with me, you are either there to get help, or you are there to re-test. Never both. If you want my help, great, but you have to come back to re-test. Retesting is a no kidding, materials put away, sitting at a desk by yourself with a pencil and a calculator situation. It was a good change because: they are more likely to at least try to do some preparation on their own, and their grade is a better reflection of what they've learned as opposed to what they just stored in their short term memory.

Plans, Big Plans
Be more proactive about insisting students come for remediation. Like, the instant their average goes below 70%, assign them detention if need be. Most kids, once they come in once, they realize how much it helps their grade, and then they take it upon themselves.

Be more insistent that everyone have a place to keep their checklist and graded quizzes from the current marking period. How to do this, I don't know. The worst ones keep all their subjects in a huge spiral notebook, and stuff handouts in the insubstantial pockets in the dividers. What a terrible solution. Pretty soon they can't find their checklist, and they have quizzes everywhere. One step up, but still pretty bad, is a sturdy pocket folder. It's impossible to keep stuff in order. The best would be a binder but I think that's a pipe dream. Kids hate binders. They are that awkward triangle shape, and you can't quickly deal with paper that's not hole-punched. In Geometry this year, I tried individual file folders, kept in the classroom. Organization was better, but they didn't have their old quizzes with them for studying. Major flaw.

That's all for now... I will probably add more to this as I think of it.


  1. Oh, man, I need that get-help OR test retroactively. Helping kids and then giving them a test was the worst part of my year. Great idea!

  2. Thanks so much for the update on your sbg. I was actually waiting for it. I am also really curious about any changes you may be making on your homework quizzes that you have been giving. I am ready to make a big change next year towards this. I've had a major problem with "completion" for credit since I started teaching 8 years ago. When the test/final/regents rolls around completion doesn't cut it. Thanks for all your helpful info on your blog. Mike

  3. DO you have a file of some sort that has a bunch of two level questions for each objective or do you make them up on the fly?

  4. How do you deal with the situation where they get a lower grade the second(or third or fourth) time around? Do you lower the grade to match, or only record improvements like Dan Meyer?
    Also (how) do you review at the end of the each quarter? If so do those points get counted too?

    Thanks for the posts on sbg, I tested it out this year and I'm planning on expanding it full time next year, just have to do the mental gymnastics to figure it out :-)

  5. I originally heard about this idea from a Dan Meyer blog post ( I do my grading very similar to what you described, with a few exceptions.

    First, if they don't answer it or they write out an answer that is total crap, I give them a zero. Kids shouldn't be rewarded even with a point if they don't know how to do it. I understand that you only do it to tell which kids didn't take the test, so instead, what I do is I put the kid down for a missing assignment in the grade book until they take the test. This provides a clear distinction that they have not taken the test.

    Second, as described by Dan Meyer, I give them two attempts in which each test is worth 4 points each. In order to score a perfect 5, they must score perfect 4's on two previous tests. By doing this, I am confident that my students are well versed in the skills being tested.

  6. A new system of assessment is being phased in in the UK at the moment, termed APP. I have just posted on my newish blog:

    The Teaching Cipher: APP and Markbooks

    I too am considering how to keep kids organised, but allow the to improve their grades. I like the idea of binders, but experience has told me that kids hate carrying them around, and when they do, bits of paper gets lost.

    One thing I really like about your system is the part where after school is either help OR re-test. Will definitely be building this in.

  7. I go with one of those two pocket folders from Office Depot. They keep the checklists in the brads. Currently they just jam their quizzes in the pockets but I was thinking there's probably a good system for organizing those as well. Perhaps moving the quizzes to the right hand pocket once they've achieved a certain level on a standard.

    Thanks for the SBG love. Keep preaching.

  8. @Amanda - I make them up on the fly. One of the projects I'd like to do this summer, though, is creating Examview test banks.

    @Dan - I should add this to the post - how I record the points. On the first question, the score is recorded out of 5. On the second time, I change the total possible points in the gradebook to be out of 10. Their score after 2 attempts (before any remediation) is either: the sum of the two scores, or double the second score, whichever is higher.

    @Jason - Yeah, maybe I'll just buy them all folders. A bright color so it's easy to find. Keep handouts/notes/etc in the left side and quizzes in the right side, or something? I'll tell them they have to use it, unless they have their own better system, which they have to show me.

  9. I bought separate colored folders for each class period. Follows a OYGBIV pattern where first period is red, second period orange, etc. I had to skip red bc it's a big no no at my school. They keep them in class. They have a spiral notebook for notes and stuff.

  10. I've been thinking about it more and I think next year I'm going to keep the tracking sheets in the brads and have the left side pocket as a storage side for older tests and stuff. The right side pocket can function as a portfolio where they keep exemplars for certain standards. That way if there's disagreement on a score they can easily produce their best quality work,rather than rummage through the hellmouth that is their backpack.

  11. Thanks for sharing your lists Kate. A few of your listed items seem more like a topic than a specific skill -- for example "linear equations". Do you just lump everything that is involved with this into that one standard? (graphing a line, solving a linear equation, writing the equation from a table or graph?).

    One aspect with which I'm struggling is how to have the gradebook reflect progress over time. How do you/the kids/parents know how they've done on a specific skill over the course of a semester? Is that by the checklist?

    Thanks again!

  12. @Jackie - I'm pretty sure you mean how linear equations is a topic in Algebra 2. That is because we just spend one day reviewing it - all three representations, really. Maybe it shouldn't even be on the list because it's not a standard in that course.

    My gradebook does not reflect the students' progress over time. I have no idea how I could set up to do that. Their handwritten sheet shows all their scores, though.

  13. Yep, that is what I meant. Sorry, I should know better than to comment before coffee.

    I don't know how to make MGB do that either. I'm thinking a category that is worth zero percent... but I'm not sure yet either. Of course, we're only using MGB for one more year, so once I do get it figured out, it'll be on to something new.

    Thanks again. I'm sure I'll have tons more questions as I fully dive into this next year.

  14. This post has given me some great fuel to get off my ass and revamp my whole assessment process here.

    The Teaching Cipher

  15. Was wondering if you handed out a rubric for students on the 0-5 system? I definetely understand your system but wanted to give something out a little more formal. I've read all sorts of SBG stuff on blogs and I'm going with yours because it seems easiest to understand!

  16. No I don't. They get the point once they get back 2 or 3 quizzes.

  17. You mentioned at some point I think that if you saw the entire class struggling with a skill you would throw it on a 3rd time. If so, do you count the last 2 times out of 10. Also, towards the end of the quarter do you make sure that you have tested each skill twice?

  18. When I put one on a third time, I only count it (replace whatever their grade with double the score) if it improves their grade.

    Nope I don't make sure everything is tested twice at the end of a quarter. If the second quiz will not happen by the end of the quarter, I date the first attempt in the gradebook after the start of the new quarter.

  19. Has anyone ever started SBG in the middle of a year? I just finished trimester 1 and am very unhappy with my methods of grading.

  20. I have been using SBG this year after a lot of looking at your blog but I just realized I must have misread something major. I have not been doubling the 2nd score on the skill. I have been just adding the two scores unless a 5 was received the second time. I have not been truly measuring what they currently now. Have you done both ways that I have described? If so did one work better than the other? Thanks!

  21. Hi Michael - Yes I have done both ways. This year I'm allowing the second score to override the first instead of adding them. There's an argument to be made for both ways. I think I prefer adding the two scores because it doesn't encourage procrastination so much. Until I master getting the cherubs to learn for the love of learning and fascination with mathematics I will probably go back to summing the scores next year.

  22. Kate,
    Thanks a lot for getting back to me. Of all the SBG's I read about, yours made the most sense. I teach in NY as well and your blog pushed me over the edge to try SBG and it has made my job so much more enjoyable. I am still working out the kinks on the re-assessments as I am sometimes overwhelmed. I am hoping to maybe make some sort of "card catalog" so that I can manage them more easily. I am also thinking of giving a little survey at the end of the year to see the student perspective. Have you ever done this? Well thanks again.


  23. Glad to hear your experience has been largely positive. Re: feeling overwhelmed, it really helped make it more manageable when I limited them to one retake per day, and said they couldn't get help from me and retake on the same day.

    I would like to make some kind of manageable question bank, too, but it's one of those big projects that I can't seem to get off the ground.

    I've done surveys and they are always positive toward sbg. Let me know about your progress.

  24. I agree it is going to take some sort of big project to get off the groud which is not happening during the school year. Not sure if you have the test generating software "examgen" but it is really unbelievable. It has skills organized already and you can pick and choose questions you want ( short answer, multiple choice ). Also shoots out answer keys for questions. I may embark on some of this during summer but my classes always seem to get changed on the week before school starts which would be realllllly frustrating. Thanks for you input again.


  25. Hi,
    A few end of the year SBG questions/comments....

    Is there any way to avoid the end of quarter rush of re-assessments? The majority come from my 2 geometry classes but I don't know if I can handle it without a personal secretary. 4th quarter I finally limited them to one re-assessment per extra help ( 2 a week ). That has helped tremendously but is still a little overwhelming at the end of the quarter. I also have them sign up for the skills they are reassessing so they cannot just walk in.

    Ideas for next year:
    - have students show me some sort of work they have done BEFORE re-assess. Way too many kids dont study before they re-assess.
    -Maybe have them show me the HW they did before re-assessing. I currently do not check hw.
    -limit the amount of re-assessments they get per quarter? ( really don't want to do this as it defeats the point of SBG in my eyes)

    Overall, SBG went well this year. I am just looking for some ideas to get a headstart during any down-time I have during finals. Just want to streamline the process so it is more manageable for me and successful for the students. I do see a little "grade grubbing" from the better students but in my intensive classes I see no motivation at all to reassess.

    Thanks for all your insight and for reading my end of the year ramble.


  26. We attach an assignment for each standard missed that must be completed and corrected before they reassess. Not perfect but it does help.



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