Category Archives: Standards Based Grading

#made4math Monday: Learning Target Quiz Cards


Last year I wanted a file for each course, with sample questions addressing the learning targets to use as either an intervention or for retake quizzes.

Different suggestions were made in a discussion on Twitter regarding organization, offering different levels of questions.  This morning, I am trying to plan out my format.

Here is what I have come up with so far:



Standards/Learning Targets
Index Cards
Index Card Dividers (Tina suggested coupon organizers for built in dividers)

I chose a standard.  Labeled my divider and thought it might be handy to write out the actual standard.  (Yes, this could be done with printed labels).


I am using level colors that coordinate with our Discovery Ed. Benchmarking system.

  L1-red, is the very minimal; L2-yellow, shows more understanding;


L3-green, is where I want to get everyone (this set came from Illustrative Mathematics Project); L4-blue, are open questions for this example anyway…may need to change this later.


I am including answers on the back for guick-check.


These are a quick, rough sketch…trying to iron out my goal, how I want to use them.

My idea is to have a coupon/photo organizer for each unit I teach.  Use actual learning targets from our unit organizer in order to move Algebra 2 closer to SBG.

Suggestions for improvments or your own experiences are welcomed!

Unit Organizer Update & Feedback Only Grading


Its been a good, very good, no, great start to the year.  Almost scary how smoothly it has begun.  But I will take it and be happy. Very happy.  I always have amazing kids.  They make me smile.  They make me think.  They make me love what I do.

I have read about comments only grading multiple times.  A colleague shared more research as part of an action research project last spring.  Reading and chatting Wilham’s Embedded Formative Assessment this summer convinced me I needed to give up grades on student work and offer feedback only.  So far, so good.  When I pass target quizzes back, I allow some time for students to mark on their organizers where they consider they are based on feedback I have offered.  I will definitely be sharing updates.

I shared a unit organizer here a couple of weeks ago.  It’s gone well, though I knew I wasn’t satisfied with it.  But this afternoon, Crazy Math Teacher Lady shared this


My thoughts are to modify my booklet style organizer to include this on the inside.  I appreciated the graph for each target.  This goes right along with some research from #efamath chat this summer.  It reminds me of something similar I had seen on @druinok’s block a while back.  I like how Lisa has a place for students to record multiple assessments.  This is a great layout!

I plan on keeping a vocabulary knowledge survey on the front as suggested by Math = Love.  Here is a sample of mine


And keeping the assessment grid on the back for personal reflection…


I re-intoduced an old assignment from a few years ago in my first units…students were asked to write their own unit assessment using our learning targets.  Most seemed to put good effort in to interpretting what each was asking.  Offering written feedback gave me a chance to address some of their misconceptions, mostly notational issues in diagrams they had included or clarifying some vocabulary.

My intentions were for them to go back through their INBs, notes, target quizzes.  A couple of times in class, I fielded specific questions they had.  Based on what I observed, I believe it was a useful task.

I am looking forward to my new organizers!  Thanks to Lisa, Sarah & @druinok for sharing such awesome ideas!

Just Knowing You Are Doing Things the Right Way


I had moments of frustration today as I sat listening to Eric Twadell share his experiences with inplementation of formative assessment and standards based grading.  I expected to learn more specifics – the HOW to implement it well – when what we were doing (his intentions) was participating in engaging table discussions to lead us to an understanding of the WHY its important.

He is a strong speaker – very purposeful in his presentation.  The focus was on what we believed – his questions allowed us to reflect on our individual classrooms/settings and through sharing and answering his specific questions, we were able to set a foundation.  He said “Its about leading change from the inside out.”  If we can help our teachers understand why its important, the change will be more effective.  We are very similar to our students – when told to do something, some will comply and complete – so they can check it off their to-do list and others will not.

I was discouraged when many of the examples being shared were very similar to things I am already doing in my classroom.  But a colleague reminded me that sometimes just knowing you are doing things the right way can be empowering.  Wow.  I do feel I am moving in the right direction.  It was a realization – that this is how my students feel / learn.  When they know they are moving in the right direction, they are more likely to keep moving.  Does that make sense?  When they are unsure of themselves, there is little or no effort.  I must be aware – able to give them descriptive feedback that allows them to move forward.  I’ve know this for a long while – but today, it really sunk in.  Today was my feedback – to help me reflect on my practices and continue to move forward.

I am more confident to continue improving some of my strategies for pre-assessments, student self-assessment.

Although a work in progress, I realize our unit organizers will help students answer the three questions in a formative assessment environment (Stiggins):

1.  What am I supposed to be learning today?

2. Where am I at now in my learning?

3.  What do I need to do to close the gap?

Today has helped me realize – I need to bite the bullet and be more collaborative with colleagues.

“People improvement is the key to school improvement.”  Eric Twadell

More Good Questions


More Good Questions has really gotten me to start thinking about the questions I ask my students.  Its so easy to stay with the traditional skill/drill I grew up on – but I am encouraged by some things my students are coming up with when given the opportunity of an open question.

Yes, a few of them are still struggling with “where to start” but now they are at least giving me something – whereas the first couple of attempts – blank stares, blank papers, blank looks.

Today, students were given the opportunity to retake their pre-test to look for any areas they may not have mastered yet.  As a review, I placed a graph of a line on the board.  I asked, “What can you tell me about this line?  How many different ways can you write/describe this line?”

I will add my slides from their discussion tomorrow.  If you can picture a line through (0, 2) and (5, 0).

Timer set.  Go.

Here are some of their responses.

  1. Its a linear function.
  2. Its decreasing.
  3. Slope from the graph is -2/5.
  4. It will never be in the 3rd quadrant. (ok, didn’t expect that one).
  5. It has intercepts at (0, 2) & (5, 0).
  6. y=-2/5x+2
  7. 2x+5y=10
  8. y-4=-2/5(x+5)  which led to a student stating, “I wrote point-slope for too, but its not the same as ___.”  Discussion.
  9. A table of values was given with intercepts as well as (-10, 6) (-5, 4) (10, -2).
  10. Another verified the rate of change with the table of values.
  11. The inverse is y=-5/2x+5 (nice surprise)
  12. A line parallel is y = -2/5x + 4
  13. A line perpendicular is y = 5/2x+2
  14. It could model a budget of $10, Candy(x) is $2, Coffee(y) is $5…how many of each can I purchase and spend exactly $10?

Many students were able to be part of the sharing/discussion.  I felt it was a great review of topics – with one simple graph of a line as the starting point…I attempted to follow #sbarbooks suggestion to look for students with fewer things on their list and call on them first to allow for their participation.

I hope to continue to gather ideas from More Good Questions that I can easily incorporate into my classroom.  I am looking forward to a book study with my department as well and seeing where it leads our students.

I highly recommend this book by Marian Small if you do not have – its worth the purchase!



One thing I realized early on this year with my attempt at SBG is that I had not planned effectively.  Though I had several resources available for different levels of learners, I had not thought of how to implement the different levels efficiently in my classroom.  I have made some adjustments, but in a couple of units, I have found myself “teaching to the middle” again.  I have made some progress, but know that it will continue to be an area of needed growth. 

When I give a pre-assessment, I feel I need to administer a bit earlier so I have time to reflect over the results.  Hmm.  How do I accomplish this, so I’m not spending my weekends reflecting over their results or loose valuable classtime on a busy-work to simply keep them busy while I look over their pre-assessments? 

My thinking is to:

  • give unit pre-assessment a few days ahead of the actual instructional part of the unit
  •  use a problem-based, small-group investigation / related activity to introduce the unit to students – the day after the pre-test…possbily a data-collection, sorting activity or something with analyzing patterns???

Would this allow me time to view their results and organize learning activities best suited for each class?  I would adjust groups based on pre-assessments similar to what Laurie Amundson shared in How I Overhauled Grading with her classes.   

Allowing students to work at their own levels eliminates some of the disciplinary issues for me.  I am able to let those who are ready to move on – experience more enriching activities rather than bore them with what they already know.  I give others the chance to be in a smaller setting and get the one-on-one needed to move them forward.  I am able to provide specific help with a foundational concept when I talk with a student about their approach to a problem. 

Suggestions of how you accomplish this in your classrooms are welcomed!

Time to Think


As I read a blog tweeted by @bjnichols this morning – Holly Green shared how thought bubbles often show “our deeply held beliefs and assumptions – determine how and what we perceived and guide how we think and act.  They can limit our ability to achieve results.”  So often in education, we are set in our ways and refuse to hear others’ ideas / opinions that could refresh our way of thinking.

I went on to read another post she hade made Slow Down, So You Can Go Fast.  Though she’s writing from a business perspective – this truly fits what many educators have experienced/chosen for the their own classrooms. 

Doing some “fall-cleaning” at home this week, I ran across a small set of lessons which caused me to pause.  I guess I had kept them because of the feedback received from my first principal, Ms. Jenkins.  The thing I appreciated about her – she always pushed you  beyond what you thought you were capable of doing.  She didn’t tell you how to improve, she caused you to reflect on your own practices. 

This particular set of activities were presented as part of my PGP for the area of student self-assessment.  I’m sure the idea had come from an NCTM resource since we didn’t have internet in the school at that point in time.  One lesson was for a General Math class, we were adding fractions.  The directions read that once students completed the problem, they used a fraction wheel to verify their answers.  Another was a quiz on solving equations which required students to verify their solutions, and space to re-work any that were incorrect – no grading required for me.  A final activity asked students to reflect and write about their learning.

In my first years of teaching I took time for student self-assessment, I required students to “check” their own work and I incorporated writing into my lessons.  So why is this an area I am focused on improving so many years later? 

This past summer, I shared a presentation with my school district to begin a conversation about SBG.  In it I shared shared how by covering content for the external accountability – we have created an imbalanced system – skewed toward
summative assessments…we have become instructionally insensitive.  (Lederman & Burnstein, 2006, Popham 2003, 2008)

When we cover content:

  • ›Intentional scaffolding which leads up to the big ideas are reduced to a checklist of what we need to cover for the test.
  • ›Quality activities that develop student thinking “take too much time” and we eliminate them – by telling students how we want them to answer the questions.
  • ›Forfeit time to use the power of corrective, descriptive feedback which alters instruction and promotes learning, allowing students to make connections and see the why. 

I shared these things not being judgemental of what others were doing/not doing – but this was a trap I had fallen in to myself.  Somehow I quit thinking about what I was teaching.  Yes, I’m sorry to say – I started “filling-out” lesson plans just to fulfil a duty.  I was making a list and checking it twice, then moving on.    I relied on the examples in a text to guide my classroom – I had traded the “time consuming” activities that really allowed in-depth student thought for covering the content. 

In order to move students forward, I must focus on what’s most important – develop / find the tasks that allow students to really “get-it.”  I have to give them feedback – either written or verbal – yes, that takes time.  

I like the Frank Noschese’s idea of giving students the chance to check their own quizzes and give themselves feedback.  This makes me more of quality control – I can view their comments – verify or comment myself.  Students writing their own feedback requires immediate reflection of their own work.   I am able to get an even better view of their thinking. 

At KCTM last weekend, Jana Bryant (Daviess Co. HS) shared an activity she called “Math Hospital.”  She collected student samples with errors and compiled a worksheet – students were asked to “diagnose” what was wrong with the problems and make suggestions to the students. 

This idea is also supported in some PD I am taking part in as part of the Kentucky Leadership Network using lessons from the Mathematics Assessment Project.  Students are given student samples and asked questions such as “Why do you think Alex chose this?  What suggestions would you make to Bill?  What information did Carl not consider?”  These lessons provide suggestions for reflections on others’ work – that will hopefully transfer to student reflection on their own work. 

I realize some educators feel these lessons are too “scripted” however, I believe like we model thinking for students, these lessons model thinking for educators who have fallen into the “no-thinking zone.”  Participating in the PD provided and implementing the lessons and reflecting will help me begin developing my own lessons.

Providing students time to think about their thinking is valuable.  Slowing down for these opportunities will proove valuable in allowing us to ‘go faster’ in future lessons.  This is the essence of Standards Based Grading – taking the time for feedback and reflection.   When I give students the chance to determine their own areas for growth, they are more likely to “buy-in” to the assignments / practice I provide for them to develop.

Slow down…take time to think…so we can go faster…





Obviously I haven’t posted in a while.  I looked back over several drafts I started but never published.  One on September 13 – was titled “Can’t Find My Groove” and discussed how I was struggling to get in the rhythm of the school year.  Usually by the end of the first full week (at least early in the semester) – I am moving forward – but during the first full month of school, I felt I was simply spinning my wheels.

I kept reminding myself that change was a process.  Plan. Do. Reflect. Adjust. 

 A colleague reminded me one afternoon that I was facing several changes this year – the new KCAS (Kentucky’s term for the Common Core), SBG (or at least my attempt at it), remediating students (no transitional courses for incoming 9th graders)…and if things are implemented correctly, it takes time, patience and reflection.  I believe that is what I was missing – time to process all that was going on – time to internalize and truly reflect. 

I’ve said this before – but I am a small steps kind of person.  I need an end goal and steps to take to get me there.  When I feel bombarded with a gazillion things – my brain tends to shut down.

A couple of weeks ago, another colleague shared the book Focus by Michael Schmoker with me – I began to read and once again, had to lay it aside in order to complete other tasks.  However, in the small bit I completed – I have realized how quickly and easily it is to loose my focus.   Without good, quality curriculum, rich-rigorous learning tasks and an effort to use content related literacy – nothing else matters until these are in place and successful. 

As I attended KCTM this past weekend, over and over again, I heard other educators state how overwhelmed they felt.  There are soooooo many new initatives “thrown” at us during PD, we don’t have time to focus and master just one.  We are asked to implement formative assessments for our students…which means giving good quality feedback AND time to adjust their learning – yet as educators we are not given that same option!  We are told to implement, implement, implement.  Yet there is not time to receive good, quality feedback (if any is given at all) and allow for us to reflect on how to improve/make it better.

Mastery learning – is not teach, teach, teach, test and move on whether they “got it” or not…so why is it that to me it feels that “mastery teaching” has become just that?

So to bring focus for me-

1. Know who I am teaching – I feel that I’ve made some connections with my students this year ( most of them anyway)

3.  Know what I’m teaching – the curriculum is my guide to where we are going!

4. Plan / locate good, rich, engaging lessons ( alittle bit of Dan Meyer’s 3-Acts) to convince them  “the product I’m selling is worth buying“…many of them walk into my classroom despising math. 

5.  Literacy – I must give them opportunities to read/communicate the content!

6.  Reflect.  Adjust.  Make it better! 





The Conversation Begins…


As part of my district leardership team, I was asked to share a few things I’ve learned this past summer about Standards Based Grading to my entire school district.  Makes me nervous – not sure why I agree to this type of thing.  Then I realize, I require my students to stand in front of their peers and share what they’ve learned/understand or how they’ve solved a problem…so I should require the same of myself.

My intent was to begin a conversation about SBG.  My hope was to help teachers in my district to pause and reflect on their own classroom practices and thinking…

Mission accomplished.  First of all, I am not an expert by any means.  I am a teacher who paused and reflected on my own practices.  I received kind comments – but those emails, texts and questions I’ve received in the past 24-hours let me know there is a need to learn more.  I will link to my PPT on this post and also share resources that others have sent me in the past 24-hours.  Its amazing to me the response!  Its teachers at every grade level, various years of experience and different subject areas.

One of my co-workers is sooooooooo close to retirement – yet she had ordered her own copy of Fair Isn’t Always Equal by Rick Wormeli.  A teacher – takes the time to learn more about something to improve differentiated learning opportunities for her students?!?  I mean, who does that???  The nerdy, weird teacher who drank the kool-aid?  No, a teacher who cares about her students – gives her best effort and sets an example for the less experienced teachers to follow…that’s who.

How to Grade for Learning overview of Ken O’Connor’s book(s).

His book How to Fix Broken Grades is the one that caused me to pause, reflect and seek how I could make needed changes to improve my classroom.  My curriculum specialist shared someone texted her requesting the book even before we left our session yesterday.

A colleague who is “not sold yet” shared this link @mrsebiology Standards Based Grading in the Science Classroom: .  I am not trying to convince anyone this is the best / only way to think about grading…but as professionals we must reflect on our own practices – decide which ones are worthy of keeping and which ones we can improve.  What needs to change in my classroom is not the same as someone else’s classroom.  I will not judge someone if they disagree/don’t go along with what I think works.  As long as student learning is the focus of every decision we make, we’ll provide the best educational opportunities available to our students.

I will continue to add/update links on this post – to give teachers interested in learning more a place to start.

The Plan…is to adapt…small things first…


Ken O’Connor, How to Grade for Learning Linking Grades to Standards, states “when changing practices, start small; adapt, do no adopt.”

I’ve always given a lot of mini-quizzes, quick quizzes at the beginning of class based on previous HW, I walk around the room looking at student work during step 3 of “I do , We do , You do,” white boards & wikki stix for graphing equations, have students flip their TI-screens around to see their graph, post-it note quizzes, student self-assess with the STOPLIGHT strategy.  I have students rework/explain missed problems on tests – so formative assessment wasn’t a big adjustment for me.  However, this summer, I’ve come to realize how important it is to have a formal one planned and in place before teaching a new target.  I’ve always been an informal assessor – but I must be more purposeful to make the assessment even more meaningful to me and my students.

I’ve always listed my daily objective / goal on the board for students, so they would know what we were doing when they walked in the classroom without having to ask “What are we gonna do today?”  I make sure they’re in student friendly terms and focused on a related standard…and now I realize the importance of addressing them at the end of a lesson as well as at the beginning.  So again, no big adjustments here.

The whole idea that formative assessments should not receive a grade- that’s one I struggle with (notice struggle is present tense).  At times, early in the unit, I completely agree-no grade should be assigned, the content is new.  However, at some point, I feel it is important to determine at what level the student is able perform a skill/apply a concept.  Even though I assign a grade/level of mastery – it is no longer set in stone.  If a student is not at the level I feel they should be, some type of action must occur – so I initiate.  It may be as simple as verbal/written feedback to actual one-on-one time with further instruction or a different learning activity.   If a student is not happy with their level, through self-assessment, they may be the one who initiates the action – questions me, finds an online resource, asks a friend for help or simply revisiting the practice assignment.  Formative assessment simply helps us determine if we are able to move on…

Last school year, along with a few colleagues, we took a step closer to where we need to be…summative assessments 70% and formative /daily grades were 30% with the intent to make a step closer this school year 80/20.  Beginning this year, my state’s End of Course Assessment score is supposed to be 20% of students’ overall grade.  My school district has adopted/submitted a policy to count EOC 10% this school year, 15% next and then to the full 20% suggested by the state. 

Averaging.  One cannot argue with Guskey’s analogy of averaging the martial arts belts…   I knew SBG was going to be an issue with Infinite Campus (which I’ve despised since day 1). After hearing Dr. Guskey speak last week – he confirmed that of all software out there, one of the worst is IC.  Oh well. 

As a transition year, I will continue using IC as a reporting tool.  From all that I (& my colleagues) have tried, it forces you to average at some point.  I will utilize a points system within IC.  If its not as smooth as I would like, I am able to enter final grades manually at the end of the grading period…looking at student learning overall using evidence gathered – each unit separately, but then all of them as a whole to determine the level at which a student has mastered the entire content.  

Another issue I will have to address is the need for a grade for KEES money.  In Kentucky, students are awarded Kentucky Educational Excellence Sscholarship money based on their grades and ACT scores.  The higher your grades/ACT, the more money (up to $10,000) a student can earn for post-secondary education at in-state institutions.  I will likely model this after a graphic Frank Nochese has included in his letter to parents concerning SBG when entering grades for each unit.  I appreciate the idea that he sits down with each student to discuss this.  Communication is essential to assessment – throughout the process, not just at the end of a unit of study.

Summative – Unit tests, quizzes – all standards-driven

Daily – to include projects, assignments and certain class activities – things I may use on a daily basis for students to demonstrate learning (I know, I know, but I’m adapting small things…)

10% EOC – this will begin with a course diagnostic test, every 6 weeks (this idea, I’m sorry, I cannot remember the blog I read it on…) a cumulative exam will be given and the grade will replace the prior exam.  However, the grades will remain in IC to show growth / allow parents, student and teacher to observe change…with final EOC score to be weighted per district policy. 

0% Formative Assessments / Standards reporting, allowing parents to see the student’s mastery on each standard.  I will use a 4 point scale, its very similar to a marking system we’ve used in Kentucky on our open response assessments, so students should be somewhat familiar with it.

0% HW Completion, Participation, etc. to allow parents an opportunity to see the students’ work habits.

All in all – I believe the most important idea about SBG is just that – your grades reflect learning/achievement and nothing else.  My grades no longer include fluff – no bonus points, no extra credit, no penalty for taking longer to master a concept.  No grades given for effort/completion of an assignment.  My grades are based on defined learning targets.  Students must show they can perform the skill or apply the concept.  To “get the A”…one must learn and demonstrate learning and go beyond the standard.  Yes, I want the focus to be on learning and not the grade.  As I’ve often heard people state, I learned more from that B that I did from most of my A’s – b/c that teacher pushed me and challenged me…

I really like Frank Nochese‘s letter to parents and will use some of his ideas to develop my own letter.  He has some wonderful tools to share for recording progress and reporting as well.  I will continue to study his process and others like Shawn Cornally of Think, Thank, Thunk.  I know where I’m going, but I’m not ready to make the big changes.  This year will be a learning experience, but I am choosing to adapt small things, become proficient at those first, then I’ll be ready to adapt some more next year.