Sunday, June 27, 2010


The past few days there have been numerous conversations on twitter discussing SBG and how individuals make it work. I feel so blessed to be a part of those conversations. My realization last night was to try to formalize and describe in detail how I'm going to approach grading next year. Big ideas are great but I need to get to the nitty gritty. Here are some of my initial thoughts. Nothing is finalized and I'm writing more to get my ideas organized. I would appreciate feedback and other thoughtful questions.

Some background
  • My district has an online grade program. Parents are able to access their child's current grade and scores at any time.
  • I have been out of the classroom for the past four years working as an instructional coach. I have not used this grade program at all so I'm making some assumptions on what it can do.
  • The middle school and high school Algebra I teachers created a common list of learning targets and a common semester exam.

Learning Target Score (skills list)

I'm fortunate to already have a list of learning targets. Unfortunately, there are so many of them. I still need to condense them to the list that I will be reporting out. I was drawn to @mctownsley at Meta Musings 4 point scale. I've modified it and a lot of it will depend on my professional discretion of what students understand or are able to do.
  • 4 points - You can work through all examples successfully.
  • 3 points - You can do basic examples.
  • 2 points - You are able to start the problem but unable to see it through.
  • 1 point - You can describe what the problem is asking but unable to find a starting point.
  • 0 points - You do not understand what the problem is asking.
These learning targets will spiral throughout the year so students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate understanding. I will have skills quizzes but I also like the idea of giving an assessment at a Do Now or whenever I see evidence of that understanding. My hope is to collect all the evidence and at the end of the grading period have a score (0-4) for each learning target.

Summative Exams

In Algebra I we already have a semester and final exam scheduled. I'm going to add a summative 9-weeks exam for the 1st quarter and the 3rd quarter. I don't know what this is going to look like. I'd like to include a mix of skills and application problems. This will be reported separately from the learning targets score although some of the questions might influence them.


I am passionate about developing my students' problem solving abilities. The challenging part is making sure that the problems are out of context and non-routine. If they aren't then they become application problems versus problem solving. David at Questions? has developed a rubric for problem solving in his class. I need to do the same thing (look for that in the future).

Big Questions

In an earlier post I wrote about the big ideas I really want my students to walk away with. I feel like I have to have a way of reporting this to students and parents. Perhaps a 4 point scale similar to the learning targets would work.

The Grade Book

This is what my grade book might look like. I think I'll have to keep a spreadsheet of my own and the online one that reports to parents. For the Parent version I'd like to report only the most current understanding of each topic, learning target, etc. When it comes to calculating the final grade I want to consider all evidence when determining the score. I'm sure someone is wondering how I'm going to weight everything and I have absolutely no idea right now :)

Other thoughts

There are some other things that I want students to do but I'm not sure how or where it would fit in with their grade. Projects? Blogging? Maybe the other process standard focus will be communication or maybe they won't be a part of their grades at all.


  1. Projects & blogging - what are the content or process standards you want students to demonstrate through these mediums? Once you figure that out, that should tell you how to enter them into the grade book. On the flip side, I could see blogging not being graded at all. For example, if you are teaching about quadratics for a week (usual instruction, activities, homework routine you probably already have) and then decide to have students blog in response to a question you pose, that could serve the same as an un-graded quiz. Do you see what I mean? If you ask kids to do a thumbs-up or thumbs-down in class....or if you ask them all to write their answers on a piece of paper as you circle the room, those are both examples of formative assessment probes. The purpose of these two activities (and potentially the blog posts) is to figure out what your students know so that you can move forward in helping them understand the learning targets. Make any sense?

  2. You've got some good points here, Sarah. I also liked the 0-4 scale & descriptions that @mctownsley uses. I understand your point about keeping the online gradebook that parents can see (is it iParent? that's what our district uses) separate from the skills spreadsheet, but I am feeling conflicted about having "secrets" from my students/parents about their grades--I want to be transparent and have them know exactly where they are at any given time, but the system seems to be difficult for parents to figure out.

    Also, I agree about importance of problem solving & process standards. My state/district has made those explicit (full list here ) which I appreciate. Basically process standards are: (1) problem solving, (2) reasoning/evaluating mathematical arguments, (3) communicating mathematically, (4)making connections within mathematics & between math & other disciplines, and (5) representing math in multiple ways. I think these are things that I can use daily, as well as in projects & extended response test items.

  3. Nice layout of your thoughts. I'll be curious to see how it works out for you. Good luck! (@Mrs_LHenry on twitter)