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

A Year in Review: Standards-Based Grading

Posted on: January 21, 2013

year in review 2012It’s been a pretty mundane year.  No drama, no great leaps, no alien invasion or Mayan apocalypse, pretty much the same stuff, new year.

Hey, this would be a good time to assess the pro’s and con’s of standards-based grading (SBG) in my physics and calculus classes.

The Good

My spreadsheets are working great.  It may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t.  A well designed spreadsheet is the key to keeping SBG running smoothly.

It’s nice to have a bank of questions and quizzes at the ready.  My first year of SBG was non-stop quiz creation.  Now I need to make maybe one or two new physics questions a week.  I probably have 300 individual physics questions divided among the C, B, and A-level quizzes.  The hard work is done, weekly quizzes cause me no stress at all.

The kids all love standards-based grading.  One of my students told me she couldn’t imagine taking calculus using a traditional grading system.  The kids are all on board.

The Meh

Probably the biggest problem with SBG is determining who is in danger of failing at the interim report.  Half way through the quarter, the class average is in the 50’s or 60’s.  One of my students emailed me over Christmas break asking me to call her mom.  She is an A student, but her 60 average at the interim was going to get her grounded for the break.  This is after I sent home letters at the start of the year and at the interim explaining why the averages are low.  The kids who plan on failing just don’t come in to take quizzes or get help.

I’ve noticed that the lack of testing pressure has caused the kids to put off studying for the weekly quizzes.  Now they look over the problems right before class.  It’s hard to determine if this would be any different with traditional grading; this year’s class is academically quite lazy.  They have been warned, there is no curve.  They can all get A’s and they can all get F’s.  Amazingly, it will be a normal distribution curve.

What’s Next

I’ve been thinking about what changes I would like to make.  I’m considering a small change to the calculus grading system.  Right now it takes two correct problems to master a concept.  The first perfect quiz gives them 40/50 points.  The second moves that to 50/50.  I’m thinking of scoring the second 45/50 and the third 50/50.  My concern is that they are earning the label of “mastery” before they really get there.  On the other hand, the kids probably understand the material so much better than they would through traditional grading.  Any thoughts?

One little thing I would like to do is color code the physics quizzes.  I’d like to copy all the C-level quizzes onto a pale yellow or pink paper.  Maybe a light blue for the B-level, and leave the A-level quizzes white.  The colors would give the student and me a quick visual check of everyone’s progress.

Considering SBG?

If you are, I am willing to share everything I’ve created; my spreadsheets, quizzes, experiences and ideas.  Just ask.

11 Responses to "A Year in Review: Standards-Based Grading"

Hey, Logan Here. I’m a physics and physical science teacher in Montana. I am interested in SBG, and would love to see your spreadsheets and any advice you have. Is your classroom a Mastery Classroom where all students move at different paces?

Hi Logan, Lecture is done for the entire class. However, once I teach the material, they test and move up to progressively more challenging material at their own pace. The model works well and students must take an active role in learning the material.

On Mon, Jan 21, 2013 at 9:48 PM, Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Hi Scott. Thanks for your input on SBG. I would be interested in what you have done with your class. My school is taking on new standards next year and I feel a curriculum re-vamp is coming my way.

Hi Shelley,
I went back and fixed the tags for this subject. Click on either the “SBG” or “Standards Based Grading” tag at the bottom of my post. it will bring up all of my SBG posts. Read them from oldest to newest; if you are new to SBG you may need to read them more than once. You could also follow the links to my sources. Then when you are ready, contact me, I will share whatever I have.

I’ve been doing SBG in chemistry, physics and Earth Science for two years now! We should compare notes!

Chem & environmental science teacher here! I’d love to see what SBG chem looks like.

I’d love to help, but I don’t teach Chem. I’m willing to share a bunch of my physics problem sets. If you know physics well enough to teach it, you might get a sense of how I’m implementing it. Maybe somebody else here can jump in and help Heather.

On Sun, Feb 3, 2013 at 9:38 PM, Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs,

Your work on here is very helpful to me as a physics teacher. I would really appreciate it if you would send to me what you have as I continue working on SBG in my class. I haven’t implemented it yet, but I’m doing some similar things.
Ian (

Scott, this sounds great. I would love anything you have for AP Calculus and Physics


I am new to the idea of SBG. I teach physics and physical science in Oklahoma. I would appreciate it if you would share quizzes and SGB spread sheets. Thanks.
Guven (

I am new to physics teaching and working on my plan for next year. I need to know how I can best learn about SBG and how to effectively incorporate it. I also am interested in any help someone can give me planning great labs to use. I can’t tell you how much I would appreciate any useful information you could share with me.

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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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