Creating Quizzes

Standards-Based Grading

How we create quizzes is a crucial component in implementing Standards-Based Grading, and it’s something that continues to evolve as I learn more about the system and what I want to accomplish with it.

SBG Rating Scale

Starting with the rating scale is important because this is what we’re asking for from our students. I’ve found that in order to rate a student’s understanding level as proficient, advanced, or mastery, then the questions on a quiz have to allow for proficient, advanced, or mastery understanding to surface. For example, I’ve discovered that my questions tend to be too easy, and this makes it difficult to truly know if a student is at an advanced or mastery level.

In order to improve this, I’ve started to use the following question distribution for each concept..

  • 3 Proficient level questions
  • 2 Advanced level questions
  • 1 Mastery level question

Overall, I’ve found that quizzes should ideally have a total of 6 questions because it creates much smoother logistics for quiz analysis and retakes.

3 Proficient Level Questions

Here’s an example proficient level question for Writing Equations of Parallel & Perpendicular Lines.

Proficient Equations Parallel

It’s just a basic question that we practice in class. In addition, it matches what our state standards want the kids to be able to do.

G.2(C) – determine an equation of a line parallel or perpendicular to a given line that passes through a given point

Based on those factors, I believe this represents a proficient level question. Going back to the SBG rating scale, it says for proficient, “The learner has demonstrated understanding of the specific knowledge and skills.” If a student does well on 3 questions like this one, then I think the description has been fulfilled.

2 Advanced Level Questions

Here’s an example of an advanced level question for Writing Equations of Parallel & Perpendicular Lines.

Write an equation of the line that goes through (4, 0) and is parallel to the line

-x + 2y = 12. Explain.

This question is more challenging. The student has to understand that parallel slopes are equivalent, but they also have to determine the slope of the original line from a standard form equation. In addition, no grid is provided so a student would either have to show intuition by creating their own or choose to solve the problem algebraically.

Also, I got this question from our textbook. At the end of each chapter, the teacher edition lists questions based on difficulty level. The question above was listed in the “advanced” list. Based on this, as well as the other factors mentioned, I believe a student can show advanced understanding of the concept in this question.

1 Mastery Level Question

Here is an example of a mastery level question for Equations of Parallel & Perpendicular Lines.

Mastery Equations Parallel

I found this question in the advanced list in our textbook as well. In my opinion, this question along with the other questions on a quiz can altogether show that a student has mastery level understanding of the concept. Based on the textbook writers’ opinions and my understanding of the concept, I believe it’s a sufficient challenge for students to be rewarded with a 10 if enough understanding is demonstrated.

Where can we find questions?

As mentioned above, I like to use our textbook’s end of chapter questions (or other textbook provided assessments) to find sufficient level questions. In addition, Open Middle, released PSAT / SAT / ACT / AP exams, released state exams, and the PARCC released practice tests are good places to go. Finally, the New Visions Quiz Banker has a ton of great questions categorized by standard. Feel free to share other sources you may know of!

How are these quizzes graded?

Check out this post.

14 thoughts on “Creating Quizzes

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing. I’m just choosing the best SB model for my classroom, and this sounds interesting. I have a question: when a student takes a quiz, does he/she choose which level problem to work on or has to solve all levels up to whatever they can?

    1. Hey Yelena,

      Thanks for the question! I have the students attempt both the proficient and advanced level questions in order to try to get the most holistic view of their understanding that I can. The only questions they are not required to attempt are the mastery level questions. Those are on a separate paper titled “Optional Challenge”.

      Let me know if you have other questions at any time!

      1. Thanks you, it makes sense. Here is my next question: based on what I read, you give a grade for every concept (you’ve mentioned midpoint formula, distance formula etc.). So each concept is its own category in your grading book? I like this accountability, but it seems like a lot of entries. How do you organize and keep track of them?

      2. Dane,
        I guess I have to re-write my question (there is no edit option!). I re-read your FAQ and noticed that you listed only four major grades per 9 weeks, which is not a lot. The reason for my question is that I teach Algebra 2, and with such degree of “granularity” I’d have a major grade every 2-3 days. I work on my system of outcomes now, and trying to balance between too many little outcomes that are impossible to re-take and keep track of. and too big chunks of concepts that are hard to grade.
        I just realized my topic is not about creating quizzes, sorry.
        Thank you again!

      3. These are great questions, Yelena. I prefer to have each concept be it’s own category in the gradebook because it allows the kids to quickly know what they need to work on. Also, it’s more specific to know they need to work on reflections instead of seeing that they need to work on transformations in general.

        However, like you mentioned, it can be a lot of entries. First, I’d say go through your list of concepts in Algebra 2, and try to narrow down the ones that are most important. One way I’ve done that in Algebra 1 and Geometry is to look at my state standards and mainly assess over the “major” concepts listed in the standards. For example, my state has what they call “readiness” standards and others that they call “supporting” standards. The readiness standards are what they feel are the most important for the course. In addition, these standards have a higher percentage of test questions on the state exam. Therefore, most of my concepts on the concept checklists are readiness standards.

        Overall, I try to narrow down the list of concepts to 22-25 for the year. This requires some slashing for sure, but it helps prevent the kids from being tested too often and also helps with the number of gradebook entries. However, cutting concepts off the list doesn’t mean that we can’t teach those concepts. It just means that we won’t formally assess and quiz those concepts. I teach a lot of things that aren’t on my concept lists and aren’t quizzed. I just want the most crucial standards to be the ones assessed. That way, when kids inevitably feel pressure to do well, it’s not over concepts that aren’t as important to their overall understanding of the course we’re teaching.

        Let me know if that helps! Thanks again for the questions!

      4. Yes, thank you, it really IS helpful. Actually, you answered what I wanted to hear. I have 29 standards so far, and i’ll go over their importance levels to try to reduce a little. But it is not too far from your 20-25, so I feel better now.

  2. I was reading about how you grade quizzes and assessments and it sounds like you expect students to show work and justify their answer based on the questions not being multiple-choice. I have no problem with that, however our school is a 1:1 school with Chromebooks and we use a LMS for tests and quizzes in order to look at the data for any RTI. If the questions are not multiple choice then we can’t use our LMS for assessment, so we are back to the traditional way of completing work. I am just trying to determine how to get SBG and the assessments to work in our math class with our Chromebooks after so much money was invested in this technology. Your website is very informative and I look forward to reading and learning more about SBG.

    1. Thanks for the question! I haven’t tried SBG in a multiple-choice, LMS environment before, but I think it’s worth trying to make it work. One thing that I’ve been learning recently is that multiple-choice isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here are a few quotes from Dylan Wiliam, someone who has great ideas around assessment.

      Quote 1, Quote 2, Quote 3, Quote 4.

      I specifically like how he talked about low-order vs. high-order questions. In the “Creating Quizzes” post above, I shared my thought process behind the types of questions I use on quizzes. So, I’m not sure how your LMS system works, but is it possible to edit the actual questions and the amount of questions on each quiz/test? Maybe a solution could be to put 2-3 “proficient” level questions, 2-3 “advanced” level questions, and 1-2 “mastery” level questions on an exam. When the results come through, maybe they can be organized based on those categories. Maybe questions 1-3 on the test are proficient level, and you give a student a rating based on their performance on those (maximum of 8 in the SBG system I use). Then, analyze the 2-3 advanced questions and give an SBG rating up to 9 on those, and so on. Whatever the highest rating they achieve at the end of your entire analysis can be their final grade.

      It’s ideal to include student thought process in the ratings, but maybe that’s a way to get around it. Is there any way to have an open response type question in the system y’all use?

      Hopefully that helps a little bit! I’m happy to continue the conversation. Thanks again for reaching out!

  3. Hello,

    First, thank you for taking the time to compile these pages! I sincerely appreciate the information.

    A few questions (please feel free to send me links to specific pages if these questions have already been answered and I missed it):

    1. If students are required to answer the Proficient and Advanced questions, is the maximum score they can receive a 9? If they decide to do the Mastery question, they must also do the other two questions as well, is that correct?

    2. When passing back the quizzes, I noticed you mentioned that you do not include their score (which I love). With that being said, what do you mark up on their paper if anything?

    Thank you!

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I really appreciate it.

      1. Yes, the max score for only attempting the proficient and advanced questions is a 90, and yes, they must do all questions including the mastery question in order to get a full 100. Also, I’m going to experiment this upcoming year with requiring all questions to be attempted no matter what. I’ll take off the “Optional Challenge” label. I’m going to see how it goes to require a mastery level question to be completed correctly in order to get a full 100 for both an original quiz or retake.

      2. I don’t mark anything on their paper (except for rare cases where I can’t resist. I’ve taken this approach so that they focus on their quiz analysis more while we go over them in class. Also, I don’t want kids to automatically think they did horrible if markings are on their quiz. It’s also too time consuming to mark each individual quiz, and I’ve found that it’s more efficient to take the most common errors and put them on a warm up later to analyze.

      Thank you for the questions! Feel free to send more.

  4. Hi Dane!

    First thanks so much for all these great resources!! I did SBG this past quarter and am looking to fully implement in the upcoming school year. I’ve been spending the summer researching and refining my system so it’ll work best for me and my students. One question I have – if you aren’t putting anything (i.e. scores) on the returned quizzes, how do you recall what score to record?? I’m really struggling with this aspect for myself. I typically go through assessments by sections/questions at a time for all students, then move on to the next section until all are done. Then I go back a record. I would write the “meaning” they were receiving on the assessment, so it was easy for me to record later.

    1. Hey Stacy! Thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate it!

      I really like that you put the meaning on the kids quizzes. I think that’s a great idea and a good compromise if a teacher chooses to mark the quizzes. For me, I grade an entire quiz for a student all at once using the proficient, advanced, and mastery guidelines to help me process what I’m seeing. Once grading a student’s entire quiz, I put the grade in my own private spreadsheet and move on the next student’s quiz.

      Because of this, the first class I grade takes the most time because that class is setting the standard for the rest of my grading. Usually, similarities emerge, and it’s not too difficult to categorize quizzes into specific grades. Most quizzes have a similar feel to the first class, and I’m able to be consistent with what’s needed to make and 8, 9, etc.

  5. You have done an excellent job of explaining how you do it, really do it, in class with real kids, not just theory how this should work. Thank you.

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