Standards Based Grading in Middle School

Edited to note that while this post was written for Social Studies, these practices can carry over easily to any other subject. Both the Math and the ELA teacher at my grade level have adopted very similar practices. 

I’ve already written about my new grading practices for AP U.S. History.  I wanted to make sure that I also told you how I’ve decided to change my grading practices for my middle school Social Studies classes.  I carried out this new SBG system for the full 2015-2016 school year, and it was a great success.  

Students were more engaged and active in their learning, and they put more effort into their assessments, and into thinking critically.  I had lots of students redoing assignments to make them better, and I saw much more growth than I would have under my traditional grading system.  Honestly,  I saw nothing but positive benefits, so I’m continuing the same practices as the new school year begins.

My grading policy for my grade 7 Social Studies classes is a simplified version of the policy I created for my AP classes.  As I said previously, Social Studies offers up a strange combination of content and skills.  (There are quite a few skills and content standards required for Social Studies 7 in NY state).  Instead of attempting to separate them for assessment purposes, I combine some content and one or two skills into a “lesson.”  At the end of every lesson, students are given an exit ticket to assess what they have learned from the lesson.  The exit ticket might consist of a few questions or a graphic organizer.  Each exit ticket is graded according to a simple rubric.  At the bottom of the page there is a checklist what has two options – Complete or Incomplete.  As long as a student has provided complete correct answers, they earn a complete.  Homework completion is not averaged into a student’s grade.

I haven’t seen any difference in homework completion once I made the switch.  Those students who are involved and active in school will do the work whether or not it’s graded.  For students who are less involved, they quickly learn that they will not do well on assessments if the homework was not complete.

Each unit has several lessons, and when I give a test or a quiz, each lesson is assessed on a separate section of the test.  One test might have 4 or 5 separate sections, and a quiz might have one or two.  For every section of the assessment, I include a simple rubric at the bottom of the page.  The rubric includes numbers from 0-5, and a simple description of what that number means.  The explanation is the same for each section of the test, even if the questions change.  It has made grading much quicker.  I just read and circle, and the explanation is already provided.

Sometimes I will assess a unit with a different type of project – not an essay or an exam.  To see examples of alternative assessments, check our my Hamilton Rap Battle, my Shays’ Rebellion monument project, or my Andrew Jackson mock trial.  Each offer a different way to assess students besides a test or a quiz.

One of the major tenets of SBG is allowing students to redo assessments if they have scored a lower grade.  I allow students to redo tests and quizzes as long as they have completed all of the formative assessments, and earned a “complete” on each one.  Students are required to fill out a “request to retest” form, and sometimes, if I think they need some extra review, I might require them to meet with me to go over the answers they gave on the first assessment.  Typically speaking, on the redo, I might change the content, the questions, or I might keep the questions the same, but change the content the students must assess.

I usually have any students who wish to take a redo stay after on the same day after school.  This means that I only need to make two versions of the test – the original, and the redo.

At the end of the quarter, I have the students figure out their own grades.  This gives them some awareness of how their averages are figured, and it also makes the process easier for me!  They simply list all of the grades they have accumulated throughout the quarter in order.  All the 5’s, then the 4’s, and so on, so forth. They then find the middle chunk of those grades to figure out their converted “average” grade for the quarter.  My school district still runs on a 100 point grading system, so my SB grades need to be converted to one number.  I then enter that grade in the school book manually.

That’s about it!  I’ve been using SBG with my middle school classes for the past two years, and I’ve absolutely loved this new system.  I’ve gathered together everything I’ve created for SBG in my classes, and created a little bundle of goods for teachers pay teachers.  You can find the bundle through this link – Standards Based Grading SBG Social Studies U.S. History

If you have any questions on Standards Based grading for middle school, please leave them in the comments section below.

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2 thoughts on “Standards Based Grading in Middle School

  1. I am wondering how you go about listing assignment in the gradebook. My district has conventional gradebooks, not standards based. I am trying to figure out the best way to set things up.

    1. I have a traditional grade book also. Each grade from an assessment is added in separately. I might have four or five grades for any assessment. I then have students figure out their own grades manually. I like students to see the process and the grade book can’t calculate the averages anyway.

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