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 put 3 questions for each concept on a quiz.

  • 1 Proficient level question
  • 1 Advanced level question
  • 1 Mastery level question

So, let’s say we are assessing 3 different concepts on a quiz. In that case, there will be 9 total questions. Here’s an example quiz from a couple weeks ago with difficulty level comments added. The quiz assessed Writing Equations of Parallel & Perpendicular Lines, Translations, and Reflections, so there were 3 leveled questions for each of those concepts. Here’s a closer look.

1 Proficient Level Question

Here’s the 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 the question above, I think this description has been fulfilled.

1 Advanced Level Question

Here’s the 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 he or she also has 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 his or her 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

Note: In a lot of SBG systems (including this one), a student is required to score a 9 (advanced) twice in order to achieve a 10 (mastery). This is still the case with these quizzes, but based on student and parent feedback, I allow students to complete an Optional Challenge in order to go for a 10 on their first try. So, the mastery level questions are technically not on the quiz, but they are presented as an optional challenge to the students if they choose to take it.

Here is the 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 2 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, released state exams and the PARCC released practice tests are a good place to go. Feel free to share other sources you may know of!

How are these quizzes graded?

Check out this post.


Yelena asks a good 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?

Students are required to attempt both the proficient and advanced level questions in order to allow for a more holistic view of their understanding. The only questions they are not required to attempt are the mastery level questions. Those are on a separate paper titled “Optional Challenge”.


6 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.

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