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70 thoughts on “SBG 1”

    1. I would enter quick quizzes daily, and there is normally a more “serious” assessment once per week, such as a dictation (hearing, level 3) or essential sentences (writing, level 3). What do you mean “various takes in each category”? Do you mean you school requires you to assess reading, writing, hearing, speaking, etc. multiple times each over a two week period? What is the exact wording of the policy?

  1. I am a master of stuffing crap into a gradebook. We need to really realize how easy that is. These are some grade tasks from my current gradebook:

    Story Quiz 1
    Story Quiz 2
    Story Quiz 3
    Dictation 1
    Dictation 2
    Paired Writing
    ACTFL Interspersonal Rubric 1
    ACTFL Interspersonal Rubric 2
    ACTFL Interspersonal Rubric 3
    ACTFL Interspersonal Rubric 4
    ACTFL Interspersonal Rubric 5
    Self Assessment 1
    Self Assessment 2
    Self Assessment 3

    Any little thing, usually one requiring three minutes or less to grade and enter, can become a grade in this way of assessing using basically Quick Quizzes and jGR, as I and a few others have gotten to doing over the course of this year just to make our assessment lives simple, as they should be.

    The computer weighs all the ACTFL grades at 35% and the rest at 55%. This is all as we have discussed over the course of this year, except I am up to 35% and not at 30% on the interspersonal skill. It’s so simple and looks like the gradebook is packed with stuff. It doesn’t say that each assessment only took minutes.

    Now, there are kids who will be sitting on a jGR D bc I still do everything off a 10 base so a 3 is a 60, thus bringing the 35% down. (Note carefully that if a child is not at a 4 on the jGR, their grade suffers, and I like that, bc jGR is my hammer to guarantee their respectful focus in class.) So, how to counteract that? The jobs!

    In no way do I indicate/calculate/screw with jobs extra credit in the gradebook. I just have the kid come up to me in the last few weeks of each six weeks term – it is up to them, not to me, to remember, as I am not a bookkeeper – they have to remind me that they did such and such a job. If I remember seeing them do that, IF I remember, at that point, I change a grade like a 5 on a quiz to an 8, or a 6 to a 10. That’s how the extra credit gets figured in.

    Why do it like this? Because I am not a fool. I work in one of the most severely labor intensive jobs out there. And, like I said, I am not an accountant. When my salary tops six figures, I will consider adding “accountant” into my job description. By grading in the above simple way, I hardly do any work with grades and I look like I am doing a ton of work. This allows me to keep my sanity in an increasingly insane business. Or have you noticed.

    When I’ve had time to thoughtfully read what James has created, I will mesh the two. I think James has some lightning in a bottle there. I think he may have found the missing link between jGR and assessment. But I haven’t had time to study it enough yet to say that for sure.

    1. Jeffery Brickler

      This is great to see your gradebook. This is something that I struggled with this year. I think it is easy, but I just didn’t have a handle on it like I used to. In the past, I had all kinds of crap in the grade book. I was giving a quiz or a test every other week. I gave worksheets and other useless crap all the time. I knew that it was useless crap, but I gave it because that’s what I am supposed to do. I worked so hard to get all this junk in the grade book.

      This year, I have been working so hard trying to get my CI skills down. Using TPRS and the writing piece and the R & D piece and so many other things was a real challenge for me. I got so caught up in the skills and teaching that I forgot to put crap in the grade book. This brought pressure on me that was unwarranted, but we know that grades are the only thing that matters. Learning is a good side-benefit if it happens.

      Nevertheless, I really need to do better on the grades. I’d love to know what should be in our two week schedule for grades. What do you do Ben? How many story quizzes per two week period? How many Jgr grades? How many dictations? This is what I need.

      I have always thought that teachers spend too much time grading/assessing. This time would be better spent developing great lessons or involved in training like the PLC. Grading is time you can’t get back and it essential does nothing to move learning forward. It should be simple, fast, and efficient.

      I think you hit it right on the head. If we can get this standards based grading thing to be a template/rubric like Jgr and I know the frequency, then I’ll be all set. Especially for next year.

  2. Jennifer in NJ

    Your last paragraph, Ben, is what I had needed some clarification on. I also have been doing the Gradebook in this was as per you. :0) But it is not the same as SBG. So if I were to keep doing quick quizzes and dictation a next year but wanted to implement the SBG system, I would be unsure how to do it. I hate this. I just want to teach.

  3. This post comes at a really great time as I’ve also been thinking about standards-based grading. Now, I haven’t read Marzano and don’t have the time to look at those wonderful links you posted about standards-based grading, James, but I’m excited to do so over my spring break!

    Overall, I like the idea of using the standards as a metric by which to assess students as I think it does really align well with what we in the CI classroom are trying to do pedagogically. (And really what anyone should be doing in the FL classroom, am I right? haha). I do wonder — it might strengthen your system to label the various skills (reading, speaking, etc) by their ACTFL standards (i.e. Interpersonal, Interpretive, Presentational). I know you mentioned in your post about how they related, but it might make them stronger to just call them by those titles, yeah? I was trying to come up with an example with the Hearing and Reading, which would fall under Interpretive, but I didn’t want to combine the two together? Unless that would be okay? I’m just thinking as I type, so please forgive me if I’m missing something!

    I like the simplicity of the rubrics as I think it’s really easy to get bogged down with cryptic/difficult-to-understand language, which is where I’m at currently in my exploration of this topic (i.e. standards-based grading). My thought was to take a gander at ACTFL’s updated Performance Descriptors for Language Learners (2012) (

    Based on that, I could see developing a number of rubrics like this one I typed up for the Interpersonal Mode:

    Now, I don’t know how that might fit into standards-based grading, but for my program (4 year), according again to the Performance Descriptors, students should be able to reach Novice-High by the end of Spanish 2 and Intermediate-Mid by Spanish 4, which is what those two rubrics strive to reflect. It’s all just a work in progress, of course, but hopefully it’ll help add to the discussion.

    Thanks for bringing this subject up and for what you created :). I look forward to further discussion on this as I think it’s really exciting AND important AND really supports everything we’re doing in the TCI classroom.

    1. Great thoughts Nathan. I feel the same kind of energy building around this as when jGR happened. It would be a real coup to come up with something simple and useful – a template – re SBG that would reduce the SBG gorilla down to something we can efficiently and effectively deal with. That would be very cool, if it’s possible.

  4. Well the purpose of what James has done is an attempt to respond to that problem, as I see it. Again, need time to study it.

    We need to state the problem clearly first. What is the exact problem with doing what we do now with daily quiz grades and jGR grades and then fitting it in with SBG?

    I’m not good at articulation this kind of thing. Like you, I just want to teach. But we have to deal with this. So let’s define the problem clearly first.

    Maybe we can all move to the next level with what James has done.

    1. Just a potential first thought, in attempting to define the problem clearly:

      We want our students to acquire language, which is why we orientate our instruction to comprehensible-input. Now, though assessment doesn’t really provide more comprehensible-input (I could see arguments both ways on that), it may be necessary as a way for both us and our students to see how they’re doing as far as gains in acquisition. For me, the Performance Guidelines do a nice job of defining the ‘how well’ students should perform as they move through Novice – Intermediate – Advanced within the Three Communication Modes.

      If, as TCI instructors, we can align our whole classroom to standards-based grading, I think we will be ahead of the curve in a lot of ways. The problem, I suppose, comes in how we show that jGR and daily quizzes and whatever else are examples of students’ progression through Novice – Intermediate – Advanced ranges. And! How students can improve in performance on these examples in order to progress along the proficiency scale. Standards-based grading seems to be all about concrete feedback to the students in order for them to move closer to meeting the standard. The new AP Spanish test (I think for French and German also) grades using the Three Modes of Communication at the Intermediate-High / Advanced-Low Proficiency Range, which is further impetus (i.e. trickle down effect) to assess in that way in the lower levels.

      Haha, I tend to be wordy, so I don’t know if I’ve defined anything concretely. Problem: Do our activities / assessments effectively show standards-based learning and grading? I’d say yes, but we must further relate them, I think, to the Proficiency Guidelines in order to give our students and ourselves a clearer picture of where they are as a language learner. These are just rambling thoughts before bed. As I think more on this over spring break (when I have more time), hopefully I’ll be more coherent! Love the discussion though :).

  5. …Performance Guidelines do a nice job of defining….

    That is what we have completely moved to in DPS for years now, at the summative level. We label all the results of district testing in terms of Novice Low to Intermediate Low. So nice point there.

    In the end, quiz grades and jGR grades are so fleeting that they in themselves cannot be called indicators of Novice High or whatever – they are just little looks at small parts of the big animal that we call Proficiency in a student.

    The nature of true proficiency is very plastic and fluid anyway. I do feel, therefore, that trying to label language development using ANY terminology may be doomed to a certain level of innate foolishness.

    What in us makes us want to label everything? Are there not other factors, such as a student’s home life, age, capacity for authentic learning (high school is not the age for that), that make our high and mighty efforts to label language development in terms of standards look a bit foolish?

    Just more thoughts here, more grist for the mill. If we must assess honestly, and provide some measure of concrete response to Jennifer’s original plea for help, we can only do it by this kind of open rambling.

    The good news is that this discussion very much resembles, feels like, the original discussion with Robert in May of 2011 that eventually led, in November of 2012, a full year and a half later, to a strong jGR instrument that allowed us to connect a student’s observable classroom demeanor to language gains in a concrete way, something that I don’t think has ever happened before in foreign language education.

    So everybody who is looking at this thread, just read what James wrote slowly. We’ve got time. Let’s just see where this goes. If we arrive at a defense and illustration of SBG without the old percentage bullshit, a new definition of it that looks differently in our gradebooks from what we are doing now, one that sends us further onward to new assessment practices that are better for our students than the ones we currently have, then it won’t have been a waste of our time.

  6. I HAVE to conform to the district wide grading policy, where we use percentages. It is really tricky to apply SBG in this system. Yes, an A is anything from 90 – 100. However, all the kids (and their parents) are interested in is their GPA. So, an A is not just an A. I have watched Scott Benedict’s videos on this subject, as well as followed all the threads on here very closely. I still cannot figure out a good way to convert the SBGs to a percentage in the grade book. Our whole district uses an online grade book where the assignments/grades are immediately visible to the students and parents. I have no problems justifying a certain grade but how do I determine with SBG whether a B-performance translates to an 80 or an 89?

    1. This is exactly my problem, which is more or less because I have a math blocker in my brain….Plus, our school grade scale is really not what I’m used to and is confusing in my opinion.

  7. I have had relatively little pushback with my 4-level rubric, which I mainly use for jGR now, but will probably adapt to other areas as I begin to institute more SBG:
    Advanced, or exceeds expectations 100 = A
    Proficient, or meets expectations 88 = B+
    Needs to Improve, or not meeting expectations 75 = C
    Unsatisfactory 65 = D
    One parent tried to argue for having more gradations, but I told him that this system is simple for the kids’ sake, and that there’s no educational benefit in negotiating a few points here and there, but rather it’s about moving to the NEXT LEVEL through regular demonstrations of observable behaviors that support acquisition.

    1. John wrote:

      …there’s no educational benefit in negotiating a few points here and there, but rather it’s about moving to the NEXT LEVEL through regular demonstrations of observable behaviors that support acquisition….

      This is huge. A real moutful. On the one hand everyone is thinking percentages and we are thinking just get the kid to the next level. Wow.

      OK I’m getting a little freaked out, this SGB has engendered the kind of discussion that could easily become babble. We can’t let that happen.

      Jeff, just to answer what you asked:

      …How many story quizzes per two week period? How many jGR grades? How many dictations?….

      2-3 story quizzes, but not just on the story, also on a reading or anything else generated from the story. So I could get 5 grades from two stories over two weeks, 2 on the content of the story, but then one on a dictee of the written story (grades on dictees, pls. note, are on how well they copy), and maybe two on two readings. My quiz writer knows to write a quiz each class whether we use it or not. I always have it. My quiz writer is a truly valuable person in this schema, always writing quizzes. Automatic A for that work. I’m always checking the clock and checking in with her to see if I have time to fit her quiz in. In this way the quiz does not drive the instruction – it may or may not happen. I like that.

      So dictees yeah as they happen, usually one per two weeks max. If that these days. Need to get more on Movie Talk or clips like Sabrina just sent and I just posted. See, as we worked with those clips, the texting one au volant for example, my Quiz Writer just automatically would write the quiz as we did the class.

      And jGR, since David and others shared here months ago that they evaluate using jGR on a daily basis, I have been doing that so in a two period realistically six or seven grades there – big mistake to not do a jGR grade almost every class, now fixed.

      Also I use David Sceggel’s self evaluation form or Paul Kirschling’s. They are on here somewhere. There is another one that allows kids to self evaluate at the end of class on how they did with jGR. So one of those per every two weeks also, Jeff. That’s about it.

      But that is not going to get us through this SBG deal. It is like we are the hobbits going into Mordor with no way out except through. I am convinced that James, whose shoulders this initiative with SBG rest on, and who started this discussion anyway, will see us through. It’s just not going to be easy, esp. in the light of what Brigitte and Jennifer and I’m sure others are dealing with on the percentages deal. Let’s keep our headds about this and mine this gold. We’ll be glad we did this next fall. I haven’t even read the comments from James and Nathan and Daniel and others below, so I will go read them. I just don’t want my right brain problem keeping me from understanding what I am feeling might be an earthquake of the jGR nature. Anyone feelin’ that? Like, if we can figure out jGR and SGB and how they related we may just have won the lottery in terms of hassle free grading that is not full of lies to kids as it always has been. Can you imagine? Grading that makes sense to everyone, aligns with standards and is easy to implement? But again, there are orcs in the caves of Mordor, so we’ll have to start following our Gandalf on this one, James. (no pressure or anything dude).

      1. Thanks for this Ben. I agree with you 100%. This SBG is huge. I really want it to work out and I want to contribute. However, until then I need a guideline to live by so that I can keep my ass out of the hot water. So, thanks for that. I will strive to meet those things. I swill also try to wrap my brain around this SBG. This group is so powerful. It is truly amazing!
        jGR was huge and this too could be a game changer for all of us.


      2. Jennifer in NJ

        I am also feeling the potential power of this. I think it would remove 75% of my fear about talking to parents if something like this was behind me, so obviously aligned to standards and an honest representation of what their kid can/cannot do; it’s just the logical smack in the face that no one could argue.

        P.S. I have never seen or read anything about Lord of the Rings so tread lightly, haha!

  8. Thanks for posting this James – this makes me realize that the SBG pilot we are trying at my school is not true SBG. We still use points and categories, but they told us instead that we have to align them all to thematic units. Thankfully I chose to align them to parts of the state standards instead (Communication, Culture, and Connections specifically) – and I think that’s a reason why I ‘m the only teacher who doesn’t completely hate the SBG pilot we have here. I want to forward your blog post to my department if you don’t mind – a lot of them don’t understand the reasons for or the implementation of SBG.

  9. Okay, so now that I’ve read a bit more about SBG, I can see the merits of James’s rubrics as well as grading system, especially because they relate specifically to what we do in the TCI classroom. I can see adapting the various levels to reflect specific activities that fall in each category.

    I also agree with Ben’s comment about how ridiculous it is to feel this constant need to label and assess everything. SBG seems to get rid of a bit of that crap though and I really like that, through students’ re-assessing (which can look and feel different in many ways .. i.e. doesn’t have to be a test), they can progress up the standards. I think it gives students a great look into their performance AND values long-term learning.

    I’m still hung up on using the language in the Performance Guidelines though, so I tried to play around with that a little bit and came up with the following: I focused on Interpersonal Communication and just looked at Spanish I and II for myself. I like jGR a lot and see the benefit to it having teeth, which I would probably try to incorporate into the scale in some way throughout the performance domains. Let me know what you all think! This is all so exciting! haha

    1. …I really like that, through students’ re-assessing (which can look and feel different in many ways .. i.e. doesn’t have to be a test), they can progress up the standards….

      Now we’re talking.

  10. One place I keep getting stuck in this whole assessment and standards thing is this: If I understand Krashen correctly, there is no way I can predict when a student will reach a certain level of proficiency. So I don’t know how to account for this in a grading system. Somewhere in there I read something that made reference to students in level 2 reaching a certain proficiency level and then in level 3 reaching another. But I don’t think it is so linear in real life. Elsewhere someone had a system where they acknowledged that a student may remain at novice high (or whatever) for multiple years. I don’t remember what this meant for the grading system. I guess I do AND don’t understand the connection to standards-based. Some kids just may never reach the standard?

    I have not had time to digest all of this, so will read and respond more thoroughly, but that is where I get stuck.

    1. I’ve got a lot to think about before responding to all this, but jen yours was the last comment here so I’ll give something quick. (I’m actually sitting outside in the freezing cold right now after a long road trip watching my son take a nap in the car. Haha! So I’ll have more time later.)

      The trick is to make the tasks for each level of each standard truly fair and truly in line with TCI. If you look at the reading rubric, for example, the jump from level 2 to level 3 isn’t that extraordinary. Level 2 is unscrambling a textivate version of the passage and level 3 is answering comprehension questions. Level 4 is translating a passage into English. I really tried to make all of those tasks simply about comprehending the written language. And since I define an “A” in my classes as “a 4 in ANY ONE standard and a 3 in the rest,” level 3 is really “A level work.” So all a student has to do is answer questions (simple one word answers) in English and in L2 about a reading.

      Like I said I have a bunch more to consider and write out about all the great points raised here. But do you have any more thoughts, jen, about that particular issue?

      (BTW, the discussion here is totally worth the cost of admission!)

      1. Great response to Jen’s question, I think. I also agree that the trick is to make tasks for each level of each standard truly fair and truly in line with TCI. Furthermore, the standards reflect a general trend in proficiency (i.e. after this many years of language study, a student will probably be at a certain spot with proficiency, but it definitely varies).

        I would say that the descriptors of, in my case, Novice, Intermediate and Advanced are more about informing students about where they lie on the proficiency continuum and less about giving them a grade, per-se. The issue then is how to convert standards to grades that go on a report card, and for that I look to James’ rubric with the A is a 4 in 3 standards, etc. That way students can still get grades that affect GPA, blahblahblah, but now those grades reflect more accurately their proficiency and don’t necessarily penalize them if they’re taking longer to get to Novice High or wherever. Just a thought anyway, not sure if that helps!

        1. Nathan,

          Ideally I would use all ACTFL language in my tasks for each level. Unfortunately I am not that familiar with ACTFL and what I have seen makes me believe they stress output too early. But it’s a house with many rooms. I do think having ACTFL language would be even more legit than what I’ve written, if we can 1) find out what that language is and 2) that language is, in fact, friendly to TCI.

          1. James,

            I totally agree that output shouldn’t be stressed too early and I can see how ACTFL could be seen doing that, though if you look at the Performance Indicators, I see a different picture, potentially. ( Incidentally, this pretty effectively explains what ‘that language is’, at least in my opinion.

            Anyway, for example, looking at the Presentational Mode of Communication at the Novice Learner Range, you find in the Function domain (and Function pertains to “global tasks the learner can perform in the language”, which IS oriented towards output, true): “Presents simple, basic information on very familiar topics by producing words, lists, notes and formulaic language using highly practiced language. May show emerging evidence of the ability to express own thoughts and preferences”.) For me, when my students do a free-write (Presentational in nature), this description would fit a lot of what they can do at level one! And keep in mind that this descriptor is for Novice High, which according to ACTFL, isn’t attainable until Grade 10 (end of Spanish 2 for me, based on a 4-year program).

            Then, if you look at the Intermediate Range for the same domain (Function), you find the following: “Expresses own thoughts and presents information and personal preferences on familiar topics by creating with language primarily in present time. May show emerging evidence of the ability to tell or retell a story and provide additional description”. Now, according to ACTFL, my students shouldn’t be able to do that descriptor well (by Spanish IV, they should only be able to reach Intermediate Mid), but I can see production like that occurring at Spanish IV. Of course, output is used only to help get a picture of where on the proficiency continuum a student may lie, but I don’t think the descriptors are too unrealistic for what naturally occurs in the TCI classroom anyway. Thoughts on this? I only have a limited amount of experience, especially at the upper levels, so some of this IS definitely conjecture.

            And I know that students aren’t provided with enough hours to really get far on the proficiency scale, but for me the point is not how far they get, but that they feel like they are improving and moving forward.

          2. It’s making more sense now. Do you think the ACTFL language is specific enough to provide the particular tasks for the levels 1-4 of the various standards? Do you think you can make good, concise “students will be able to” (SWBAT) statements from them? For me, I need those to be as specific and TCI friendly is possible. For that reason I chose stuff like “able to do a freewrite” and “able to answer comprehension questions.” My first instinct is to say that we are safe if our SWBAT statements for the 1-4 of each standard can be said to match with the ACTFL language–even if that ACTFL language is not explicit within the SWBAT statements themselves.

          3. Two things:

            1) The way I see it, I would develop a set of standards-based rubrics (the 1 – 4) that don’t mention specific activities, but rather mention specific actions / understandings. I would avoid specific activities because we would want a wider range of instructors to be able to use said rubrics, and I would see myself using multiple activities as assessments of a particular standard (i.e. with interpersonal communication it could be PQA, Story-asking, etc.) I could see putting a note with each rubric suggesting activities that could be used to assess said standard.

            2) I agree with you that the language used in the standards needs to be as specific and TCI friendly as possible. Right now I find some of the language vague or too “technical” using the Performance Descriptors. For example, for Interpersonal Communication – Novice Mid, Function Domain, I roughly came up with:

            4.0 All in 3.0, and shows emerging ability to ask highly predictable and formulaic questions.

            3.0 All in 2.0, and shows emerging ability to respond to highly predictable and formulaic questions by listing, naming and identifying.

            2.0 Students show emerging ability to respond to highly predictable and formulaic questions with one-word answers.

            1.0 Little or no ability has been demonstrated.

            With this, I would already want to change my 3 to read, “by listing, naming, and identifying with one-word answers” or something like that, but then I’m not sure what I would do with 2.0. and I find “highly predictable and formulaic questions” to be pretty vague, but I’m not sure how I would make it more concrete yet. And note the difference between 3.0 and 4.0 is the EMERGING ability to ask “highly predictable and formulaic questions”, so that’s similar to jGR in not forcing output, but making note of it when it occurs.

            Thanks James for this great discussion! I’m really getting into thinking about standards-based grading now, haha. Grading with standards just makes so much sense to me! You have opened my eyes :).

          4. Having the descriptors for 1-4 be more general actions/understandings and then linking each assignment to a particular action/understanding could work. I’d be interested in seeing a draft of several more standards with levels 1-4 spelled out in this way. I’d be weary, though, of all the variability and possible headaches that might come late at night over the question, “Now what freakin’ level (i.e., action/understanding) of what standard does this assignment line up with?” That’s why I chose to have the descriptors for levels 1-4 be the actual assignments. But like I said I’d be interested in reading a few more standards done in the way you are describing.

          5. I agree with that sentiment about variability and potential for headaches if the language is too vague. I’m currently working through creating standards for Spanish I. Feel free to view and comment on any of them as I go through. I only have the Interpersonal ones semi-operational, but I’m working them over slowly. (So the document is definitely a work in progress, but of course I’d love input!)


        2. In reaction to James’ response to jen, Nathan said:

          …the trick is to make tasks for each level of each standard truly fair and truly in line with TCI….

          Let’s just sit on that for awhile. That is pretty much where James is going with this and I haven’t had time to really study James’ two links to his blog yet. Correct me on that James, but can we say that making tasks at the different levels fair and in line with TCI is pretty much what this is about? My right brained self is just barely hanging on to this entire discussion but my left brain self is a scrappy fellow.

        3. …the issue then is how to convert standards to grades that go on a report card, and for that I look to James’ rubric with the A is a 4 in 3 standards, etc….

          Right on. All power to the people.

    2. jen made three megalithic observations:

      …if I understand Krashen correctly, there is no way I can predict when a student will reach a certain level of proficiency….

      My response to this is yes yes yes. However, if we are truly to take a crowbar to the current system of grading, we shouldn’t care about that. In DPS, we encourage any student who is at Novice High at the end of level 2 – quite a few are – to go right to level 3 after level 1. Everybody happy.

      Other kids, who test on our district exit tests in April to be Novice Mid, they just go to level 2. The levels in our district are actually starting to mean something in this way. A kid is placed in the level of proficiency they have attained, and not placed in a level based on how much seat time they have put in in a classroom. That is Diana’s dream and it is a beautiful thing.

      So jen on that, with a good summative district instrument in place, we in Denver Public Schools don’t care about the lack of predictability of WHEN they reach a certain level. I hope that makes sense.

      …elsewhere someone had a system where they acknowledged that a student may remain at novice high (or whatever) for multiple years….

      Yes and you may have heard that in Breckenridge last summer bc that is what we do, although we don’t have a district assessment instrument for our level 3 kids (the IL area) yet (hope to write that one this June).

      …some kids just may never reach the standard?…

      I have a kid who just likes to come to class. He has all sorts of issues. Practically no English, a hard life, failing other classes, illegal, busted down, really, on all sides by life, but in French I can just see him relax because he knows he can just come in and hang and listen and relax. He is a career Novice Mid guy. He could take four years and never get to Novice High. Good for him. He is enjoying French. He is not meeting the standard but he is enjoying French. This is where I hope Nathan and James take this thing. I suspect that Nathan has the ring and James is Gandalf. The kids I describe above by the way looks like Buddha and takes pride in being our Buddha in class. He sometimes sits in meditation in class. Right? And if we take this discussion and make it acceptable for Buddha to never reach a certain standard, and make it OK and make HIM ok for his simple enjoyment of his language class, then perhaps we may discover something else about what Standards Based Grading might possibly mean beyond what we think it may mean now. The deepest purpose of this site is to help children, and if we could turn the grading system around by it’s big ugly head to look in that direction, with no penalty for being slow, we might be able to help kids more. We are not involved in a profession that is all about kids to be the fastest ones across the finish line. So how can jGR and its twin sister SBG serve in that interest together? If SBG has room in it for respect for the kid, whereas percentages do nothing but sting him in his other classes so that my Buddha may not graduate, then we are moving in the right direction through Mordor. We help our brothers, we do not judge them.

      1. I would say that kid in your class is the whole reason SBG exists. It allows teachers two ways to make stuff better for him.

        1) It lets the teacher base his grade entirely on a set of specific tasks which are created by the teacher. No more slavery to percentages and averages. Keep in mind, too, that those tasks for level 1-4 of the various standards can be changed easily for individual students based on special needs, IEPs, etc.

        2) It lets the student improve his grade without weighing him down and making him suffer for early failures. Reassessment is at the heart of SBG. If you can show me that you can do the tasks, what do I care that it took you longer than your classmates to get there? jGR has had the same feel, I think, since the beginning. If the student improves his interpersonal behavior, of course his jGR goes up! And haven’t we talked a lot here before about what a great motivator that is for the students? Imagine expanding that kind of dynamic from only interpersonal-jGR to THE ENTIRE GRADE and to EVERY PART OF LANGUAGE. That’s the idea, anyway.

        1. …it lets the teacher base his grade entirely on a set of specific tasks which are created by the teacher….

          That makes me think of what Bob Patrick said here lately, about how we do mega differentiation all the time. So an admin wants some differentiation? Here. Have a big class-long drink of differention….

      2. There’s a lot of awesome things in your post, Ben. I don’t have much time to respond to all of them, but I REALLY like the idea of where a student is along the proficiency scale determines what class they’re able to take. Wouldn’t it be great, if instead of 1-4 or whatever, we had Spanish Novice Mid Level, Spanish Novice High Level, Spanish Intermediate Low, etc etc and THAT was how students progressed through their language classes. Of course, this is in an ideal world and there are a lot of outside factors that affect these things, BUT I think SBG goes a long way towards helping students to succeed. It’s all about improvement and growth, and so then students are defined more by their constant hard work to grow and improve. Awesome. I agree completely with what James said, too!

        I would be interested in learning more about the summative assessments your district does, Ben. I don’t know how much about that you can share, but I am curious. Especially as I go about trying to create my own (once I get this whole SBG thing better worked out).

        1. I thought about shuffling some of our DPS assessments to a district once but decided to honor the proprietary clause associated with those materials as the intellectual property of Denver Public Schools. Guess I didn’t want to get fired.

          We work long hours on single questions through the first half of June, all day. We have four good ones now, two pretests and two post tests for levels one and two. Looking at level three this summer. Diana is very intense about those tests, and should be.

          It’s odd that we write and give them to certain levels throughout the district, but then if a kid gets a D or above they are automatically placed in the next level,which is not a real SBG kind of thing to do.

          This is an understandable need/want of the counselors. And it may change. At present, labeling the student as NM or NH or IL does allow us to move a small percentage of kids up. We can’t keep them at the same level yet.

          Maybe some day could sign some of them up for the next level again, like level 2, bc like you said above we feel it is best for them, there is no stigma, and only the kids who got NH in level 2 go to level 3.

          The computers would say level 3 for both groups for credit purposes, but they would be in different sections. It’s possible.

          1. I mean, I guess the number of the class (I, II, III, IV) doesn’t really matter, right? What I mean is, if we know a student is Novice Mid or Novice High or Intermediate Low and they also know that, what else really matters? Not the level the’re in, really, since acquisition doesn’t work like that anyway. So even if you have a kid at Novice High that’s in Spanish 4, what of it? That student is at the proficiency level they need to be at / that’s all they can muster at the moment (thinking of the Buddha student you mentioned).

            Now, I could also see, through SBG, creating a situation where a student wouldn’t be able to move up a level (i.e. would ‘fail’ and have to retake) if they didn’t adequately reach all of (or most of) the standards for the course. This would also have the added affect of potentially being more accurate as far as where a student should be placed. But then you may be penalizing a student for being a slow processor… haha. There’s so much to consider!

            Also, if you really study those performance descriptors, it’s really crazy how potentially easy it would theoretically be to get to Novice Mid (which would be end of Spanish I for me, in theory). Especially within the TPRS/CI context!

            Also, Ben, and I know you can’t share much and would never want to pry, but would you be able to at least say, in general, what a task might look like on one of those assessments? Like, do you use an authentic text and questions for interpretive? I have ideas, but again I’m the only one in my ‘district’ if you will, haha, so I need all the help (as much as you or really anyone! is able) I can get. I do appreciate it!

          2. …you may be penalizing a student for being a slow processor….

            I don’t see that as penalizing a kid. Advancing with a bunch of fast processors is not good for the kid and we want what is best for the kid. What we are up to here, and the reason I want to understand what James is saying at its core and ideally see us apply it to some document that may impact like jGR has impacted, is about a fundamental restructuring of how our brains perceive grading. Buddha gets four years of credit, but stays in level 2 for the last three years. No judgement or penalties there. He’s fine with it. That’s the hard part.

          3. I’d also be okay with him advancing though the years and going from Latin 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 and getting As the whole time even if he isn’t on the same level as his peers in those upper level classes. That’s the main function of SBG as I see it: To make grading about performance against standards–which for us are all about comprehending, and the Buddha can do that with the best of them–instead of about ranking and separating.

  11. There are so many great quotes in these posts that put a smile on my face. From the inside out. The real deal.

    “The deepest purpose of this site is to help children, and if we could turn the grading system around by it’s big ugly head to look in that direction, with no penalty for being slow, we might be able to help kids more. We are not involved in a profession that is all about kids to be the fastest ones across the finish line.”

  12. So, I think I’ve come up with a pretty fair rough draft for a version of SBG tied more closely to the Performance Descriptors. I would love any comments / opinions / critiques. I made it so people with the link can comment in the google doc, so feel free to do so! Or here. Or wherever! I’m still figuring out some things, which I note at the end of the document. Too tired right now to dive more fully into those issues. Need sleeeep, haha.

      1. Nathan, I like how this looks. I’ll need to meditate on it for a while, though, before I can say how it will impact my particular approach to SBG. That’s all these SBG posts are about, though, I think, just to introduce basic SBG concepts. There can be many different flavors as far as implementation of the basic principles. We can all have different wordings in our standards, for example, and we can all call the standards different things. I really really like how in these you stick so close to ACTFL. It makes them feel very legitimate.

        One thing: For interpersonal, your key skill is “can express self in conversations.” But I don’t how this really connects with jGR. My understanding is that jGR will assess how receptive students are to input, how much they engage in the input process. Will you need to supplement jGR with something else to assess the interpersonal mode?

          1. For me, the interpersonal mode isn’t just about receptivity to the input, but also about active negotiation of meaning, which jGR addresses as well. But, I also see value in ‘conversing’ in Spanish, which we do constantly through PQA and storytelling. Notice that the language of the Interpersonal Rubric, when talking about output, sticks primarily to the word level, which most students demonstrate when they respond to our questions (yes/no/one-word answers). Within my scale, I would only expect a Spanish II student to reach Level 3. Level 4 is for those that are reaching past level 3 and entering the Intermediate Range sometimes.

            Also, within my school context and with the students I have, I can see myself doing simple interviews once a quarter or something, which would really just take the form of a simple conversation about whatever it is we had already been discussing in class. But, again, that will work in my school and may not in others.

            And, yeah, presentational does involve output, though there is no judgement about “how well” the student can communicate when presenting information. If, in a timed write, a student can “communicate information on very familiar topics using a variety of words, phrases, and sentences that have been practiced and memorized,” then awesome. I think that happens pretty frequently, just judging by what my Spanish I students can currently do. And again the goal for the end of Spanish 2 would be a 3.0 in presentational, which I think is totally doable.

            I also agree with James that I can see this simplifying a lot of my grading / makes it more transparent. It’s a little more work then quizzes + JGR, but I like that I can tie it very specifically to performance descriptors and standards. I think that lends it power in a setting where we are constantly having to ‘play the game’. I’m off to Kansas, but I’ll think more about all of this and your comments while I’m away. I think through conjunctive grading you can really make the standards as input-friendly (i.e. maximize the importance of input and de-emphasize output) as you want.

            Thanks for everything and all the comments!

  13. Anything connected to output can’t be also connected to jGR. That’s another mode.

    In theory, we would have two other jGRs right? One for output/presentational and one for how students receive input/interpretive. But we don’t have them for those two other modes for a reason. The interpersonal skill to me IS the defining skill of the Communication Standard. The interpretive mode is invisible and the presentation mode cannot be evaluated in a real way for lots of reasons. How would we manage two more jGRs anyway? The beauty of jGR is its simplicity.

    Aside from the point about output raised by James, this is nice, Nathan. But there is that output thing. I think we need to simplify this initiative even more. I wonder if it can be done. I wonder even if a gradebook could even hold all the details. What I mean by that is that my own gradebook is as busy as I want to get, with just jGR and quick quizzes in use. I guess I never thought about how complex a grade book based on standards would look. Is this thing possible? I know it’s an individual thing, James, but is your plan too complex for me? Given that I am a simpleton on grading. I don’t hear many from the rest of the group commenting. So where does this lead now?

    1. Ben, the system of jGR and quick quizzes is working really nicely for you. And I trust that if students start off poorly but end up really getting it by the end of grading period, you take that into account during final-letter-grade time. And that’s the whole point of SBG, to allow for whole-sale improvement of letter grades without being weighed down by earlier, crappy attempts. As long as the system you have in place respects that process, more power to you. We’ll all have a different flavor of this, I think. I wanted to get out my system, though, for those interested and for those whose districts are moving to system-wide SBG.

      1. This is a relief to me bc I’m so set in my simple ways, and I have zero pressure to align with any new top down system changes, and yes I do bump grades up as you said above, so I can take a deep breath on this.

        The thing is that you and Nathan and those others here who are going to have to dance to the SBG tune need to keep this thread alive somehow for some time. Like jGR was a business really of almost a full two years. Things evolve and our take on SBG, so married to what we do with jGR, will evolve as well. I guess I’ll just keep placing all SBG discussion into that category for reference by all. You and Nathan have laid the groundwork for a future building in the past few weeks. Great work!

  14. Simplification, for me, is the test of any grading system. Now if we are being required by our schools to pile up a bunch of statistics, then we should take advantage of everything that is being discussed here and at least pile up a bunch of statistics that relate to the standards. But let’s not lose sight of the de-cluttering that has been such a successful part of what we’re doing on this PLC: the simplification of our day to day workload, being able to transfer that energy from prep and data entry into the class time in the TL. That still trumps everything for me.

    So let’s learn all we can about SBG, and its application, but ultimately let’s each choose only what elements will be helpful/necessary for us in our particular schools with our particular kids, and no more than that.

    1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

      I appreciate what James and Nathan are doing here and the incredible amount of work that went into these documents.

      However, I agree with John’s last idea when he writes:
      “But let’s not lose sight of the de-cluttering that has been such a successful part of what we’re doing on this PLC: the simplification of our day to day workload, being able to transfer that energy from prep and data entry into the class time in the TL. That still trumps everything for me.”

      John, I’m in total agreement with what you wrote here. We need to conserve our energy for teaching ! CI is a wonderful tool in teaching but it does require energy.

    2. Absolutely! Our grading systems don’t need to be the same. Not like jGR, which we all use pretty much as-is. My intention wasn’t to get people on board. I just wanted to share my system that I’ve developed over the past two years for those who might need/want to move toward SBG. It is becoming quite a buzz-word, after all! And now there is a little more beef in the SBG section here for future reference.

      I will add, though, that the system of SBG I’ve developed has become quite simple for me. I hardly spend any time grading anymore now that I’m used to everything. I never bring work home–or HARDLY ever. And it feels nice being able to nail admins with legit SBG talk whenever they ask and still not really grade all that much. It’s the flavor I like! 🙂

      And pedagogy is 10000000% more important than assessment. Sometimes SBGers will talk about assessment like it’s the answer to every problem. Of course that’s absurd. Pedagogy is the answer, and TCI is that pedagogy for us and deserves as much attention as we can give it.

      1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

        Thank you James for everything you have done for us here!

        I believe that timing is everything. May be the timing for SBG is not quite here yet, but will come soon. Then we will have something in the archives to go back to and we’ll be able to revisit this complex topic.
        Let us know how those rubrics work for you in the future though.

    3. John said:

      …let’s not lose sight of the de-cluttering that has been such a successful part of what we’re doing on this PLC….

      Well said. Like those photos of classrooms you take. I would like a book of classroom photos by John, because they would be different.

      In the few classroom photos I have seen from John he captures his own internal shift towards the pedagogical simplicity that we as teachers all need and feel is possible via comprehension based instruction. It would be a great book of photos, a meditation.

      Indeed, why aren’t there any photographic collections of classrooms? Because they would clang and clatter and spit old feelings and upset the viewer.

      To complete his book, of course, John would need more classrooms in which this feeling of simplicity could be sensed. Rooms in which the desk is just a desk and the wall is just a wall, devoid of clutter. Rooms in which fear doesn’t linger.

      This concept of simplicity has been a minor leit motif on this site for a long time now, and John does well to remind us of it from time to time – simplicity in our classrooms is of supreme importance for our overall mental health.

      Honestly, how many of us would be able to offer, in our own classrooms, a subject of a photo that John could take in the spirit of simplicity? How many of us have too many charts up on the walls, too much crap laying around, old books that just don’t belong there, objects that hide fear?

  15. James,

    The standards of reading and vocab are dependent on each other. It seems like your grading one skill twice because of this. Can you talk about why you created them as two different standards?

    1. Yeah, totally. I put them together because I hate the idea of a vocabulary-only assessments. I don’t even think they’re possible. You need vocabulary in context, but if you give it in context it’s also a reading assessment!

      Add that to the fact that I always offer vocabulary help to my students during reading assessments if they ask for it. I’ll give them something to read along with some questions or a translation (see reading rubrics). So if a kid raises his hand and asks what a word means–and of course I want to help because I want him to read the passage and understand what it says–I write down its meaning in red pen on his paper. There is that permanent record of the fact I gave him help on that word. When I go to enter the rank for reading, I also see who needed “minimal” vocabulary assistance vs. “more than minimal” vocabulary assistance.

      I don’t care if a kid needs to ask about word or two. But if they are asking for a ton of words they will get a low vocabulary rank because they have been sleeping during CI and need to work on their vocabulary. Reading is one thing and vocabulary is another, but they are so closely related and basically inseparable by means of assessment so I grade them in this two-for-one way.

      Does any of that make sense? I am trying to get this all ironed-out for myself, too.

      1. Jennifer in NJ

        This is a great response. Thanks! I love this idea of writing the word down on the kid’s paper as record of their not knowing. Do you do this only for reading assessments? Or, do you do this during step 3 of the tprs steps? OR, are these both the same? Every time you give a reading of the class story it is for assessment since they have had experience with it auditorily….I also beg forgiveness if any of this is confusing.

        1. I’ve only been doing it for official reading assessments because that’s the only time I take note in order to update their vocabulary rankings. In no way do I assess for reading with every reading! We only go through a few reading assessments once every month or so.

          1. and by “a few” reading assessments I mean “one cycle” of reading assessments, that is, one quiz for level 2 reading, one for level 3, and one for level 4. Each quiz only takes 10 minutes (actually probably less than that) and go well in the middle or at the end of my block schedule classes.

          2. Jennifer in NJ

            I’m reading that blog ThinkThankThunk which you linked from your blog. This is a lot to think about. Grading is an issue for me but I want SBG to work for me in just the same way that I’ve wanted CI to work for me. The 2 definitely seem to work together.

  16. Again, I don’t want to take credit for a photo I didn’t take. His name is Giancarlo Rado. Here is the photo. I like to keep it on a tab for meditation when I’m really trying to declutter.

    He has taken other photos in schools, and they all show a beauty and elegance, even in a pile of backpacks. If we can start looking for, and creating, simple elegant beauty in our spaces, working with whatever materials we have, that can go a long way toward improving the emotional conditions of those who spend a large portion of their waking lives in those spaces.

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