A problem with SBG?...or a problem with implementation?

January 4, 2017

 

You may have read in the news lately about the struggles that one district is encountering with SBG.

 

Parents have formed a group, anxious to return to "traditional grades." There is no question that the practice is not working the way that it should, or at least all stakeholders are not convinced. But does this signal a problem with standards-based grading? That the philosophy of SBG represents yet another point on the ever-swinging pendulum in education? 

 

If we think about what standards-based grading really is, though, we realize that it isn't a philosophy at all. SBG, put simply, is a practice of summarizing performance according to standards, using best practices in measurement. Those who advocate for SBG are not promoting a change in philosophy, but rather supporting the shift away from mathematically inappropriate ways to treat the type of data we have toward clear and mathematically sound ways of doing so.

 

So what went wrong in Falcon District 49? There could be several contributing factors to the uprising of concerned families. It could be that the families need more information on what SBG is and why we are using it. Families need to have as clear of an understanding of SBG as teachers and students. In our work, we piloted SBG using parallel report cards to bring families into the conversation as implementation begun. Parents chose the SBG report card. There are many other ways to ensure that families have good information, and their fears of the outcomes of SBG are alleviated. 

 

There may have also been difficulties with implementing SBG to fidelity. If only pieces of SBG are implemented, this can cause huge problems. For example, if we move to "SBG" but still use averaging anywhere in determining an overall grade, we have not really implemented SBG. If, in moving to SBG, we reduce the amount that formative assessments or homework completion calculate into a grade, we still aren't implementing SBG. 

 

It's good to see the conversations going on in Falcon District 49. They are making progress toward a better system. And by seeing the discussions unfold online, we can gain a better understanding of the considerations we need to take in moving forward.

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