Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

SBG Success – Part 1 (Point Distribution)

Posted on: October 28, 2011


(This is a follow up to a previous post on Standards-Based Grading.  I’m so pleased with the success, I started writing and created a monster post.  I’ve gone back and broken it into bite-sized chunks to scare off fewer readers.)

The first quarter is almost done and I’m incredibly pleased with my conversion to Standards-Based Grading (SBG).  I’m glad I started with Calculus, the kids have been an understanding group and open to trying something new.

I began by setting up the scoring, each concept was worth 10 points.  The only other grade they have is a weekly WebAssign grade.  Those are usually worth between 15 and 25 points.  I found the WebAssign was too heavily weighted and the concepts didn’t have enough impact, so I did some analysis last week and seven weeks into the first quarter I changed the concepts to 50 points.  I printed grade reports and noticed that the point change lowered everybody’s score.  I expected an outcry, but it didn’t happen.

I explained that with three weeks to go in the first quarter, any new concepts will get entered into the second quarter.  Since I will not have the option of going back and changing their first quarter grade later in the year, I needed to give them enough time to master the early material.  What I explained to them is that their grade report showed the lowest possible grade for the quarter.  They all have three weeks to bring their grades up to an ‘A’ and they all can do just that.

Suddenly it clicked and the kids are coming in during their study hall and after school.  The rule is they can take a single concept quiz each day; plus we have a quiz every Friday in class.  At first they were dreading the quizzes, now that they understand that a quiz can only improve their grade, they love the quizzes (well, maybe not love – I do make them rather challenging).

The students are motivated to learn the material, they finally feel like they have control over their grades.  I know this is creating a positive learning environment.  All of my calculus students that have me for physics asked me to switch the grading system in physics.

Next post – The Grading System

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2 Responses to "SBG Success – Part 1 (Point Distribution)"

Question: what happens if a student earned a high grade on a standard, and then takes future quizzes that are low and show that the high grade was a fluke?

Excellent question. I’ve had a couple of those because the first questions are usually only moderately difficult. Subsequent questions are more challenging. As a result, I’ve had several cases where the student got a 3 or even 4 on the first question followed by several 2’s. That indicated that the student didn’t really understand the concept and came in for tutoring. In each of those cases it took several weeks for the student to master the concept. That is why two 4’s are required, not just a single correct response. Also, on my quizzes, a concept usually has two problems, so it is unlikely to get them both correct if they don’t really understand the concept.

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What’s New in 2013/2014?

Every year brings a change, this one is no exception.

I will be picking up the sophomore honors Algebra II class to keep them separate from the juniors. This should help accelerate them and put them on a stronger track towards Calculus. Looks like there will be only one section each of Physics and Calculus, but still two of Robotics & Engineering.

Hot topics this year are going to be the Common-Core Standards, Standards-Based Grading (SBG), improving AP Calculus scores, and somehow adding Python, maybe as a club.

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