one year of #sbar: tests

tests before standards based grading: I would teach a chapter, and then schedule a test.  I would open the test bank and choose 20 to 30 questions I thought the students should be able to handle.  After the test, I would decide on a certain number of points for each question and count up the number of points they earned for correct questions.  Those points, compared to the total points possible, became the percentage score recorded in my gradebook.

tests in first year of standards based grading:  After I made my list of objectives, I went to the test bank and found questions that could tell me how the students were progressing toward each objective.  I made separate test pages for objectives based on how difficult they were, and I made all of these in the summer before school even started.  This gave me a goal in my head as I taught the unit -- I knew what I wanted them to know and do, so I just had to figure out a way to help them get there.  I scheduled the tests when I felt they would have enough practice to demonstrate their learning so far.  After the test, I used a score sheet to see how each student did on each objective, and decided if they were beginning, developing, or proficient.  If they were anything other than proficient, I encouraged them to meet with me for review and reassessment.

tests for next year:  Now that I've seen a year of student work, I have a better idea of the kinds of evidence that will tell me how a student is progressing toward an objective.  I still might use some questions from the test bank, but I'll probably be adding a lot more of my own questions to the test bank that are better tailored for my objectives.  I also plan to have my criteria for beginning, developing, and proficient outlined a lot more clearly for each objective.  For ninth graders, a rather traditional appearing chapter test seemed comforting to them in the midst of such a new and strange grading system.  I think I'll keep the tests-at-chapter-end for grade nine, but older students could probably handle more variations like weekly quizzes covering anything that has been introduced up to that point.  I know that sounds harsh to some people, but hey, it's just one of many opportunities to demonstrate skills.

sample score sheet (not real objectives, just a sample format):  Each block is one page (L1, L2, L3).  Each page has 6 questions in this case (most tests had 8 or 10 per page).  Questions 1, 2, and 5 on page L1 measure the objective "physics is a basic science."  If they get all three of those correct, I can say they are probably proficient.  If they get some wrong, I'll consider the type of question and type of mistake to determine if they are beginning or developing their understanding of that objective.


  1. You bring up several good points for the greater #sbar community:
    1) Scaffolding. Implementing SBG w/9th grade students may look a little bit different than 12th graders, especially if it is a shift for them.

    2) Moving to SBG is more than a grading or assessment shift, it's a shift in so many other practices. Lorna Earl wrote about this,

    "...changing classroom assessment is the beginning of a revolution - a revolution in classroom practices of all kinds...Getting classroom assessment right is not a simplistic, either-or situation. It is a complex mix of challenging personal beliefs, rethinking instruction and learning new ways to assess for different purposes." ( 2003, pp. 15-16)

    Looking forward to your future posts!

    1. Thanks, Matt. I'm currently at a 3-day workshop on differentiated instruction so I'll have a lot of thoughts to write out when I finish.