Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hey points, meet my new friend SBG

Dear Points,

We've been in school together for such a long time. Remember those book reports in elementary school where I just read enough to complete the book report so I got a good enough grade? or that time in high school where I colored a few extra maps and did some word searches in my geography class to earn points and raise my grade? or how about that senior English class in high school where I racked up massive extra credit points for turning assignments in early? or that one time at band camp? O wait, I wasn't in band. We had some good times, didn't we? Or so I thought.

When we went to college, we hung out way less and I wasn't ready for that. I missed you because my classes and instructors actually wanted me to demonstrate understanding of course content. They didn't really have a relationship with you. Now I know why. I had those math, science, and engineering courses that simply assessed my understanding through tests and labs. You abandoned me many times throughout college. After college, I fell into teaching and you showed your face again because I was confused and thought we could be friends again.

After teaching for 8 years now, our relationship has taken a toll on me. Last year, we definitely butted heads mid-year with a student and their parent who demanded I give them a point-based assignment to raise your grade from an F to a D-. What did they learn? Nothing. What did I learn? YOU SUCK! Our relationship while being a teacher has always been constrained. I'll admit, I was never 100% committed and vested in our relationship. Each year I was trying new ways to convince myself and my students that we needed you on campus or in my class by revising homework procedures, quizzes, tests, etc. I couldn't wait for last school year to end and be free from you during the summer. I ran into someone new over the summer: Standards Based Grading. He goes by SBG.

SBG introduced me to friends (teachers) who keep learning exciting and relavent for their students: Sam Shah, Shawn Cornally, Frank Noschese, Dan Meyer, etc. They have open relationships with SBG and share how their students are benefiting from it. In the short months of summer 2012, I've already learned more with SBG than my entire academic career with you. Points, you suck! Even better, I got to spend my summer getting well acquainted with SBG and discussing with Fawn Nguyen and Nathan Kraft about how flexible SBG is. All three of us had our reservations about committing to SBG, but we have now seen how SBG is the BFF to both students and teachers. SBG doesn't put any clamps on student learning nor hold a carrot in front of them. SBG has a circle of friends that welcomed me. They have unconditional love for my students and their learning. It feels naturally right. Recently, Chris Robinson even devoted an entire website to SBG.

This isn't the first goodbye letter you've received. I read the letter my pal Timon Piccini sent you and I was thoroughly excited to write you one as well. There's been others and I hope you receive more... maybe more letters than Santa receives at Christmas time. Be lucky it's just a letter and I'm not filing a restraining order. I wish I could. However, I know that we will have to coexist at my school. I'm not moving to another school, but if I ever do I know SBG will come with me and can only hope there are SBG friends there too. Since we have to coexist at the same school, I will respect those you hang out with, even if they're in my department. You still have their friendship based on fear of changing. Leaving you intimidates them. Points, you suck! My department wants to see how long and fruitful my relationship with SBG is this year. They're ready and willing to spend next summer getting better acquainted with SBG. I think your days are numbered. However, my greatest joy is that you will no longer bully my students this year. On the flip side, I hope you don't bully kids in other classes too much or let teachers abuse the joy of learning. I wouldn't want them to be the victims of your rebound.

I bid you farewell, points. Feel free to keep anything I've lent you. Keep my worksheets, handouts, CDs, that one t-shirt you borrowed, and even my book report from third grade. I need a fresh start and SBG has given me that. If we see each other on campus, in the hall, or in another teacher's classroom, I won't turn my nose up at you or talk down to you. We can still coexist at school, just know that you're not welcome in my classroom. If I see you bullying any of my students, expect me to stand up for them. SBG has my back, know that!

Andrew Stadel


  1. SBG is a he? Oh well, he or she, SBG is pretty hot. And I was so hoping you'd end with another, "Points, you suck!" Love this, Andrew!

  2. Thanks Matt.
    @Fawn: Points, YOU SUCK! SBG is cross-gender. I just didn't want to tell anyone that. It's kinda shy.

  3. Okay, just heard of SBG about two weeks ago and totally intrigued. I'm a certified teacher working as a para in math classes til I can get my own after taking a family leave of oh, about 10 years. So much has changed since I was in the classroom and I'm thinking if I have to start over, why not start over with SBG! Totally newbie question. So, the standard is being able to find surface area of a cone. To be able to do that, you need the lateral height. So, do you only give problems where the lateral height is given? Or do you include problems where it is not given and they need to use some other way (say Pythagoream's Theorem) to find it? And if you do that, are you really checking two standards?!? Like I said, just starting to delve into this but I'm already stuck on this one point. I've been perusing the blogs of Shawn Cornally and Dan Meyer but any other great online sources would be appreciated. I'm on twitter, @nisdredman.

    Thanks! Rebecca Redman

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      Thanks for checking in and being back in the classroom. SBG is the way to go. There have been times when I though it was a mistake, but I'll debrief (blog post) at the end of the year on all that. You raise a valid question, one I've encountered numerous times this year. Daniel Schneider has saved us time typing up some thoughts addressing your inquiry. Check out these two posts:


      Personally, I need to reflect upon SBG from this past year, read Daniel's posts again, and see what will work best for my situation. I'll keep you posted. Welcome back!

  4. Okay, I am in my second decade of teaching and have been attempting variations of SBG so when I finally began to read all of this great stuff by wonderful people such as Meyer and Stadel, I became instantly hooked on making what I'm doing so much better. Just one burning question and with all of the reading I am doing, I am unable to find this answer. How do I come up with a grade for a student for their report card? Standard 1, they have 4/4, Standard 2, they have 2/4, Standard 3, 2/4. Do I add up the 4, 2 and 2 this student received and make it 8/12 and since that is 67%, that's what they get on their report card? (It would obviously be out of much more than 12) or it is more of well, they got one 4 and two 2's so subjectively they should get a 3/4 which is 75%. So basically, do you add up all of their individual standard scores or come up with a subjective mark that may even include an interview with the student to collaborate on an agreed mark? Any feedback on this would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Great question.
      You've addressed a snag I ran into as well. I entered each standard into my Aeries gradebook instead of adding them all together. For example:
      Graph a line in slope-intercept form 3/4
      Identify the slope and y-intercept of a line 4/4
      I also noted each previous level of mastery before their most recent level. As a compromise, I also had summative assessments each quarter and those were a part of their grade too. If they performed better on the summative assessment than on the formative quizzes or retakes, then I went back and adjusted the grades for each standard.

      I hope that helps. Let me know if you have other questions. It's a lot of work, but I'd do it again!