SBG – get on with the teaching already!

I am a big fan of standards-based grading.  I was implementing some form of SBG for most of my teaching career.  It makes sense if you want to more authentically assess student learning.  However, it seems my Google Reader is overly littered with SBG posts and I fear that we are in danger of missing the forest (student learning) for the tree (SBG).

I think it is great so many people are jumping on the SBG express, but if your *teaching* doesn’t change, what’s the point?  So you’ve made your assessment more transparent, you have clear goals and are going to measure student learning rather than compliance. GREAT!  Now what are you doing in the act of teaching to help your students get to the deep levels of understanding you desire instead of just memorizing a bunch of vocab words?

I can’t wait to hear stories of how *teaching* is transformed to focus more on student learning.  It is student learning and our teaching that matter most.  Simply providing students the ability to “try again” to meet the standard doesn’t mean you are doing all you can as their teacher to improve their learning and thinking abilities.

Importantly, I’m not at all anti-SBG, I just hope our collective emphasis shifts away from assessment and toward teaching and learning.  Yes, SBG is an important shift, but not the “magic bullet” to improve teaching.  Only our hard, reflective work will do that.

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10 Responses to SBG – get on with the teaching already!

  1. Shawn says:

    I’m pleased that Ontario’s provincial test is criterion (standards) based, vs. norm (% or compared to others) based. It allows us to see what aspects of the curriculum we need to address and what aspects we are doing well at. More importantly it should lead to asking questions such as “How are we doing so well/going to address the issues?” or “Why?” Testing for ranking, witch hunting, or political gain is of no value. Of course, any test, if the questions aren’t asked BEFORE and AFTER is pointless and only done to ‘prove’ what the students ‘learned’, not how to improve teaching or learning.


  2. A lot of people are posting about SBG because it is a change their working on. The formatting/starting up is a huge change (that’s why people are blogging about it), but the change

    I see in my classroom with it is the chance for the retake. Also it’s the chance for students to see the specific things they need to work on. That, in turn, changes the classroom/teaching because students are focused on mastery and not “points.” It’s the chance for students to see that one mess up/failure isn’t the end of the road and that they’re on a continual learning journey. The learning isn’t over when the test is over. The learning is over when the mastery has happened. It’s changed my teaching because I’m not giving up and moving on. Kids have to come in and get help or show they’ve been working to learn the concept on their own when they come to take a retake. That’s what it’s about for me: the students taking ownership of their learning…which changes the classroom culture from test deadlines to the goal of mastery not matter when it happens.


    • Jerridkruse says:

      I know it is a change & there will be some inherent change in culture, but my concern is that change doesn’t affect the teaching, only the grading. If the teacher is still just handing out worksheets, lecturing, giving rote-based assessments, but they can retake them, there has not been much change that really benefits the student, only one that benefits their grade. I hope SBG leads to more focus on thinking & deep processing of less content, but have seen some evidence in the blogosphere that that is not happening. Instead people are simply allowing retakes & not grading homework (both good practices) but a means rather than an end. Right now I’m seeing a shift in the way some people write about SBG as though SBG is the end. I also see this similar thing with technology. Technology does not a good teacher make, nor does SBG – both can help (or hurt), but if the things we do during teaching don’t change & teachers continue to simply be providers of info rather than encouragers of thought, has a real shift actually happened?

      I’m not trying to discourage anyone, only push people to keep thinking & keep


      • I understand what you mean, but people have to start SOMEWHERE. SBG gets me to look into WHY my students are making mistakes instead of just counting problems wrong, then I can go back and revise my teaching. I realize it’s not the end, but it’s a start. I think we both agree. Just give people credit for taking a step to change anything ( I think you are doing this…but I want to reinforce the positive that SBG is a big change in many classrooms). =)


        • jerridkruse says:

          I also think we agree, but i like to push buttons :) I think for some people SBG is a great starting point, however, for many people there is no change in anything except kids get to retake….i’ve seen that in my own schools, on blogs, and in other schools. You, and man others, are obviously very reflective and SBG is a great tool to guide reflection. My concern is the people who adopt SBG and then….nothing. My even greater concern is admin-directed SBG, then their really will be no change because we have to have a reason to change, and just cause someone said so is only enough for most people to *appear* as though they’ve changed.

          I’m trying to keep looking ahead and keep a critical stance. If we aren’t constantly raising questions, we end up nowhere. Now that some people are starting to change, continuously examining even the new things will (hopefully) keep things moving forward (whatever direction that is). :)


  3. I think we agree, too. There are math teachers that I work with that take off a 1/2 point for this and count the whole problem wrong if the steps aren’t exactly they way that would solve it. For some people, actually allowing a retake is a HUGE step away from their teacher-controlled, 50% off late work world!


  4. I think I’m probably one of those teachers you mention who is blogging primarily on SBG right now. I can only claim, like Becky says, that it’s something I’m thinking a lot about right now because it is a change I am making.
    Though for me personally, my teaching has changed in a huge way as well. I’m at a new school that does its math classes in an exploratory way, which is a change for how I’m used to doing things, but a change that I wholeheartedly embrace. It’s more in line with my philosophy than what I was trying to do before. As a result, I don’t have to think as deeply about what I’m doing teaching-wise and therefore I’m not doing much writing about it. I hope to change that in the future, since I think the methodology we use is really interesting and I would like to hear what other people have to say about it.


    • Jerrid kruse says:

      It sounds like your teaching is/has been transform(ing)(ed). This post was reacting to some SBG posts i had viewed in which the teaching was clearly still VERY traditional (wrkshts, lecture, etc), but they thought tt SBG was somehow making
      their classroom more effective. Unfortunately, we, not an assessment scheme is what transforms out classrooms (but you already know that). I didn’t link to the posts for obvious reasons. I hope you keep seeing how your teaching must be made to fit your philosophy, too many of us simply do what we are told rather than work to match our pedagogy w/ our philosophy. I find very few teachers disagree philosophically. where we differ is our inactment of that philosophy.


  5. Tyler Rice says:

    Jerrid –

    I totally agree with you. I’m planning on being the iconoclastic voice among the SBG borg (they actually call themselves that) in the next SBG blog post gala. Maybe you should join me!


    • Jerrid kruse says:

      I hope I don’t sound “down” on the DBG borg, but i just like to raise issues to remind us that there is still more work to do :). I’m sure I will aim my next contribution to the gala at this issue.


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