Three Years into Standards-Based

Advice for SBG Newbies

Getting Started

I wish I could tell you the process is easy. Instead, I will be brutally honest . . . you may lose sleep over this. You see, SBG is a journey.

Click here to listen as Heather Scott, 8th grade math teacher, explains her SBG journey.

It will not (and can not) happen over night. It should be researched then tested with a small group before you implement it.

Research. Try perusing the works of Rick Wormeli. My district leadership team watched his video about "Tackling Zeros" while standards based grading and started a discussion about the meaning of grades. This led to some of my colleagues and I talking about the notion of standards based grading. We read the work of Thomas Guskey and discussed "Five Obstacles to Grading Reform." Robert Marzano's work, especially articles like "Grades That Show What Students Know," guided us in our quest to learn about the enigma of SBG.

Test Group. Break into a small test group. My school started small. Initially, in the very first year, I enlisted the help of a math and ELA colleague. We conducted some ROUGH experiments, such as creating standards tracking forms, student self-assessment activities, and a school-wide outcome based rubric (click here for some of them). Of course, we continued researching best practices. Before long, we created a school SBG policy.

Below is Part 1 of a video in which Calloway County Middle School Principal, Amy Turner, shares the initial stages of SBG in our school.

Three Years and Counting

Building Support

As with anything new, you have to give the overall system time to work. During this building process, it is important to rally support. Without adequate time for the system to work and honest effort to sway colleagues to venture into the SBG world, the system will fail.

Build a SBG Support Team. In both my classroom and grade-level team, after the experimental phase, we began to talk about SBG around the school and in the classroom. Two math, one science, one social studies and one other ELA colleague joined our initial group, working through the system in their respective classrooms. During this time, we shared what worked and what did not. Click here to listen to one of my colleagues share his SBG experience.

Give It Some Time. Like most people, I want immediate results. Sadly, SBG does not fit that mold. Remember, you are creating a culture shift when you venture into the SBG world (all shifts are time consuming). During the building phase, take time teaching students the SBG process. Include parents by inviting them to provide parent feedback for student work. Send home frequent emails and/or letters, including them in the process. Remember, this is new for parents. Do not be surprised when a parent complains about lower grades at first. If you are truly grading just by the standards alone, you will see an intial drop in grades. Rest assured, this drop (and the parental concerns) are temporary. Once students and parents begin to understand the process, you will see a shift in support. Click here to watch a video of my students discussing SBG in our classroom.

Below is Part 2 of Calloway County Middle School Principal, Amy Turner, discussing the SBG process in our school.

Part 2 Standards Based Grading - Three Years and Counting

Reflecting and Refining

If you take anything away from this flyer, I hope it is the following: SBG is an organic process; refining and reflecting is a daily process.

In the three years of my SBG journey, I have yet to feel like I am truly a SBG "master." Instead, I am always looking for ways to refine the process. If you are like my colleagues and me, you will be the same way. Here are a few steps to help you along the way as you continually refine the SBG process in your classroom.

Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate. It gets lonely on the SBG island without the advice of colleagues. Share your ideas. If you create a useful tool, pass it along. For example, my math colleagues and I continually pass ideas. We share similar systems, which makes the entire process much easier. Click here to listen to one of my colleagues discuss SBG.

Listen to Your Target Audience - Your Students. The advice from students is priceless. My students help me problem solve, suggest rubric ideas, and encourage me to take risks. I am always mindful of what the students say, and frequently ask them for feedback.

Join a Learning Community. Networking through platforms like Twitter has enabled me to move beyond my small, rural community. I spend time in Twitter chat sessions with colleagues all over the United States, learning about SBG. Follow people like @kenmattingly and @NMcCutchen or groups such as @KyNT3 and @RickWormeli. Join an online community such as Jim Burke's English Companion Ning or, better yet, become involved in programs that help you become a better, more sound teacher. For example, I have learned so much by participating in the CTEPS Cohort (Classroom Teachers Effecting Positive Solutions), a group funded by the Kentucky Network to Transform Teaching. Above all, do something! As teachers, we must continually strive to reflect upon our teaching and refine our craft.

I will leave you with these final reminders:

1. Do not be afraid to try something new. As with all change, you will be uncomfortable in your new SBG world. Stick with it!

2. The process is trial and error. You will experience wonderful highs and stressful lows. That is life. Stay the course.

3. Step outside the box. When you do so, you learn more about yourself and hone your craft. That means great things happen for both yourself and your students.

I hope you give SBG a try and persevere.

It is up to you! Good luck.

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