The Spirit of SBG

You want switch to standards-based grading, but, for whatever reason, you cannot. Do not worry. All of the strengths of SBG can be done within a traditional grading system:
  1. Shift from tracking by chapter to tracking by concept.
  2. Allow opportunities for students to show growth.
  3. Don’t grade homework and practice.
  4. Provide timely and effective feedback.
  5. Spiral concepts throughout the curriculum and your assessments.
  6. Give shorter, more frequent quizzes.
  7. Assess what you value.
  8. Provide clear goals and expectations for performance.
  9. Encourage risk taking, failure, iteration, and experimentation.
  10. Do what works best for your students and your situation.

A traditional system done in the spirit of SBG  is much, much better than an SBG system done poorly. (Trust me, I’m speaking from experience!)

28 responses to “The Spirit of SBG

  1. Thanks for this concise, but very important post!

    I will be developing a pseudo-SBG system for Algebra this summer as a full conversion would not go over at my school. However, by following some of the points you make (and others according to individual situations), you can definitely create a standards based grading system even if you’re constrained to a typical % grade.

    • A colleague and myself are going to be using a version of SBG and are trying to figure out how we want to do it. Would you be willing to post your system for others to see?

      • Absolutely, one is in the works (hopefully next week!). I’ll try to post an update here when it goes live, but in case I forget, check out

  2. Thanks 4 this timely post. This gives me hope that I can integrate SBG into our school grade book in my first year of modeling.#mpdphys13

  3. Reblogged this on Renovating My Classroom and commented:
    Nice list of small manageable changes.

  4. Thanks for posting. I have recognized the logic and value of SBG for some time. Many promoters of SBG suggest that traditional vs. SBG is an all-or-nothing proposition. I’m glad you have a voice of reason and suggestions for how to make grading more meaningful in a traditional grading system. I have rewritten my grading policy this summer implementing many of the ideas you have suggested. By sharing your experience you give me more confidence that I am making positive changes for my students.

  5. Excellent post! I could not agree more with your last sentence. SBG for the sake of SBG can be detrimental to kids.

  6. Okay, now I’m confused. If you do all of these things, how is this *not* SBG? What’s missing?

    • Hi Josh,

      I think that a lot of folks might agonize over writing a list of standards and coming up with some way of distilling all the 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s into a report card grade. A more “traditional” way (in the spirit of SBG) could be to take a large unit test and break it up into several smaller concept quizzes. Each of those quizzes could still be graded using points/percentages. It’s not pure SBG, but you’re trying to bring a bit more focus on concepts rather than chapters.

      Another sticking point for some teachers is reassessments. Pure SBG could allow for unlimited retakes at anytime on demand by the students. But the spirit of SBG would mean allowing students opportunity for growth, but not necessarily via unlimited out-of-class retakes. The MIT article linked in the post talks about how one course used the final exam as a second opportunity to improve, with no other reassessment opportunities provided.

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  8. Thank you so much for this post. I am moving from a charter school were SBG was the way for reporting student’s progress to a state funded public school that uses a traditional grading system. I want to implement SBG in my classroom but it seem so much work for making too many things work in this first year there. I’ve been following your blog and remembered you have wrote these ideas to make it work. Thanks again.

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  13. Hi there, how is the SBG going? How do you keep track of the student mastery? What’s your secret to grading quick enough to provide the frequent feedback?

  14. Reblogged this on evangelizing the [digital] natives and commented:
    This is GREAT advice for anyone wanting to being with standards-based grading. A pseudo-system is keeps the training wheels on and allows you to get your feet wet without changing everything about your current structure.

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  17. Thanks for all of your SBG posts. They are the reason I started using a pseudo-SBG system last year. Several other teachers are using it now too. Yesterday, a non-SBG teacher said that by organizing my assessments by learning goal, I’m telling the students how to do the question (???). How would you respond to this?

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  23. Thanks for all this info! I am wading into the deep end of SBG for my AP CSA course and this post clearly laid out some things questions I need to consider before launching this fall!

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