Bare Minimum SBG?

Riley Lark says, “You can implement SBG (standards-based grading) without any fundamental changes.”

…Just group grades by knowledge. Don’t say, “you have 95% in projects, 80% on tests, and 85% in homework.” Instead, report that “you’ve earned 95% in graphing lines, 80% in graphing general functions, 85% in composing functions.” It doesn’t have to be philosophical – this is just more information for your students.

I want to agree, in that I think SBG comes with a lot of extra tools and philosophy attached to the bandwagon that don’t absolutely need to be bundled in for this to be a useful approach.

I wonder, though, if SBG has much of a point if the improved reporting doesn’t create an opportunity for improvement.  If the grade is already set in stone, does any student really want to hear exactly what they got wrong and how?  Wouldn’t that just feel like rubbing salt in the wound?

Another question is whether SBG really means anything without a slight philosophical shift.  Reporting back more information to students is great, but many teachers already do that in the form of reporting every individual quiz and test score.  Quizzes are already grouped by similar material – does that make it SBG?

My thought is that at its core, SBG needs to be about attempting to report what a student understands and what they don’t understand, as opposed to reporting back specific assessments.  This is what Riley was getting at in his example, but it’s worth emphasizing that this isn’t just more information, it’s different information.  At its core this is something of a philosophical change.

The specific implementation can be as revolutionary or as subtle as you want.  Even if you don’t implement a particular system of reassessments, this core SBG philosophy empowers you to choose how to assess and reassess a student’s actual understanding any way you wish, at any point during the year.


One thought on “Bare Minimum SBG?

  1. Thanks for the response – I was wondering if anyone would take issue with the idea.

    I started to think about SBG’s bare minima in a conversation I had with Shawn Cornally. We were talking about free schools and schools with no grades, and how much SBG was NOT like that. SBGraders still tell their students if they’ve learned enough, and still judge their students’ level of mastery, and tell their students if they can go on to the next course. SBGraders do NOT necessarily allow their students the opportunity / responsibility of choosing their own learning paths and styles. An SBGrader might lecture all day, or might lead inquiry-based labs, or might say, “What do you want to learn today?” and provide no structure at all. SBG is orthogonal to your philosophy of education (as long as your philosophy includes grading).

    Furthermore: imagine a class without remediation allowed, with averages and graded homework and all those things. I think SBG would help those students even if no aspect of the grading changed except the organization of the reports.

    My answer to your question about grouping like quizzes together is that yes, grouping assessments together by topic counts as SBG. I hope teachers go farther, but we need a new term – we cannot keep lumping remediation+nohomeworkgrades+empoweredstudents under SBG. “Standards” has enough definitions already!

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