Standards-Based Grading: the Framework

Part 1 of 4 in a series of blog posts about Standards-Based Grading

For myself, I have spent several years shifting into a Standards-Based Grading (SBG) model of assessment & evaluation (A&E). I have gradually adopted what I considered to be the best practices of colleagues I met within my school board, teachers from other boards at educational conferences and from teachers in the educational blogosphere.

For many OCDSB teachers, they have simply heard that the school board’s A&E policies & documentation are changing, effective September, 2014. I’ve heard many teachers express their anxiety over what they perceive to be a lack of training with these new documents. The school board recently put in place some on-line training modules, but is also hoping that the teachers who have been implementing this type of A&E over the last few years will lead a bottom-up training approach to getting their colleagues on board.

What we were doing before:
Teachers taught their courses by unit. Sometimes those units came from the curriculum documents, sometimes they came from the textbook which divides the course up into chapters. We taught each unit, and at its end assigned a test on that unit or chapter. Those tests were divided up into 4 sections of problems/questions; Knowledge/Understanding, Application, Thinking, & Communication (the achievement chart categories; can be found at the beginning of each curriculum document).

achievement chart

Students received 4 different marks, one for each category. Those marks then got input into a grading software like MarkBook by “bin” that would weight the categories the way we wanted and calculate an average for us.
Marks were collected & recorded by unit/chapter and by the 4 categories.

What we’re doing now:
Use the overall expectations in our curriculum documents as a way to divide up our teaching and our evaluation. We test a student on whether or not they are proficient at a certain curriculum expectation. We evaluate their proficiency using levels (R, 1, 2, 3, 4).
OE vs SE

The overall expectations (OEs) are what we need to evaluate or test. The specific expectations (SEs) are what we need to teach. Of course we will evaluate some of the SEs since they make up the OEs, but we do not need to test students on every single SE.
“All curriculum expectations must be accounted for in instruction, but evaluation focuses on students’ achievement of the overall expectations. A student’s achievement of the overall expectations is evaluated on the basis of his or her achievement of related specific expectations (including the process expectations). The overall expectations are broad in nature, and the specific expectations define the particular content or scope of the knowledge and skills referred to in the overall expectations.Teachers will use their professional judgement to determine which specific expectations should be used to evaluate achievement of the overall expectations, and which ones will be covered in instruction and assessment (e.g., through direct observation) but not necessarily evaluated.” Gr. 9-10 Mathematics Curriculum in Ontario

Most curricula have anywhere from 9-12 overall expectations. These OEs are the “standards” according to which you will be evaluating your students. For example, in my mathematics curriculum I might evaluate my students’ ability to meet the expectation of “solving a linear equation”.

One thing I love about this is that it forces us, as teachers, to really become familiar with our curriculum documents. This is in contrast to a reliance on textbooks created by companies for profit but not necessarily well-matched to the curriculum (but that’s a conversation for another day).

Another thing that is so great about SBG is the ability to pinpoint the topics/skills (by OE) that a student is strong in or in which they need to improve. Even better is when you have the students track their progress too so that they always know what areas they need to work on. More to come on this when we talk about Evidence Records later on.

The placemat:

The OCDSB has created what they call “the placemat” which is meant to give an overview of the documents we will be using to support this shift in our assessment & evaluation practices:


placemat (in pdf)

Get reading:

The best way to really get a good grip on the framework and philosophy behind SBG is to read a lot about it. That’s what I did to really understand what we were trying to do beyond the A&E documents the school board is focusing on (Assessment Plan & Evidence Record).

Here’s a reading list about standards-based grading … jump in!
Daniel Schneider
Frank Noschese
Sam Shah
Jason Buell
Shawn Cornally
Dan Meyer
Jim Pai
#SBGchat on Twitter

Stay tuned for part 2: The Assessment Plan.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)


One thought on “Standards-Based Grading: the Framework

  1. Pingback: Assessment & Evaluation in the OCDSB | Wheeler's thoughts on teaching

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