SBG Grading Percentages

There are a few things I need to decide when implementing my SBG for next year. I’m definitely doing a 1-4 scale where 1 is “Beginning”, 2 is “Developing”, 3 is “Proficient”, and 4 is “Mastery”. Any fewer and I would feel that I’m not giving enough specific feedback, whether to motivate faster learners or encourage slower learners. Any more and I might as well just go back to a 100 point grading scale (at least that’s what it feels like for some reason).

However, I still have to report grades, at the end of the quarters and on report cards, on the A, B, C, D, F scale. Therefore, the one thing I have to decide is “what % should I assign each value”.

To decide this I created an Excel sheet (actually a Google Spreadsheet), and I looked at some scenarios, having decided what I would want the outcome of that scenario to be, and edited the percentages to meet my expectations. I’ll list just a few below.

One thing you should know is that our school uses a 10 point grading scale, but doesn’t have D’s. Therefore a 70 is passing (C-), while a 69 is failing.

Student is exactly Proficient in All the Standards

Expectation: I want to reward this student because this is what I would like every student to accomplish at a minimum.

Result: I adjusted the “Proficient” to be at 85%. Therefore, if a student gets all proficients, they earn a B in my class (whatever that means… wow this is all so very subjective even though for so long I pretended like it wasn’t.)

Student is Proficient in Half the Standards

Expectation: I really don’t think this student should pass.

Reasoning: I want to raise my expectations of the students and expect them to become proficient in over well over half of the standards. However, if I simply calculated percentages from the fractions: 1/4, 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4, then in order for a student to pass, they would need at least 4/5 of their standards to be at “Proficient” AND the remaining ones to be at “Developing”. As much as I hate to admit it, this may be a little unrealistic, especially as I will be reassessing my students for retaining of the content.

Result: Because “Proficient” is at 85%, I moved “Developing” down to only 40%. This requires that at least 2/3 of the standards be “Proficient” AND the rest be at “Developing”.

Student gets Several Standards at “Mastery” but Completely (or Mostly) Ignores Other Content

Expectation: I don’t want students to earn an A and then give up on other content.

Reasoning: First of all, I’m going to try to make getting “Mastery” fairly difficult for the average student, depending on the standard. However, I would feel guilty making

Result: I moved “Beginning” down to 20% and “Mastery” down to 96%. Another thing you should know about our school is that we use the +/- scale, so some of our students are constantly chasing down A’s, instead of A-‘s.  These percentages would essentially require that a student who wants an A would have to get “Mastery” in nearly all of the standards, and get “Proficient” in the rest: a difficult task, but not impossible.[1]


And so I’ve decided to follow these guidelines when converting my SBG levels to letter grades: [2]

1 = “Beginning” = 20%

2 = “Developing” = 40%

3 = “Proficient” = 85%

4 = “Mastery” = 96%

Did I approach this decision the right way? Should I have created percentages and then graded based on those–adjusting how difficult or easy each level is?

Oh, and I am not planning on sharing this information openly with students (yes, I’m aware it’s on my blog [3]), though hopefully I will be able to defend my decisions against the administration/parents if any issues arise.

[1] One thing I don’t like about this is that I’ve made it impossible to get a 100% on the standards. Is that unethical? Or have I been in the industrial-revolution non-SBG world too long?

[2] It’s too bad I can’t just report in SBG, but students, parents, and colleges are used to traditional letter grades, so I understand that the system won’t change overnight.  Here’s to hoping it does change one day.

[3] I’m fairly certain that most of my students would not even know how to find this blog, let alone care that it’s here.  If I ever have to move schools, however, there will be some posts I might have to remove or edit because other students may be a bit more tech savvy.



Filed under Teaching

5 responses to “SBG Grading Percentages

  1. Note: I tried to put some pictures in here to show some examples clearer, but failed miserably. Let’s see how it goes without pictures.

    Without going into whether I agree with changing from SBG to % grades or vice versa, I will focus just on sharing existing practices (as I know them). The transferring between SBG to traditional % ranges have a lot of implications. Both in theory, and for practical purposes. Let me share my understanding of how it’s currently being done across our school board (or expected to be done):

    A (relatively) recent A&E document has been provided for teachers across Ontario, called Growing Success (2010)

    Page 40 shows the breakdown of corresponding “levels” to %’s.

    We have 4 levels (1, 2, 3, 4). In our conversations, I was operating under the assumption that it is fairly similar to your US approach of “Beginning, Developing, Proficient, Mastery.” But I may be mistaken? A Level 1 is already consider a passing range (50 for us). Anything below this would be given an “R.” According to the document that I linked above:

    “The code “R” represents achievement that falls below level 1 and is used in the evaluation and reporting of student achievement in Grades 1 to 8. For achievement below level 1 in Grades 9 to 12,percentage marks below 50 per cent are assigned. Both “R” and marks below 50 per cent signal
    that additional learning is required before the student begins to achieve success in meeting the subject/grade or course expectations. “R” and percentage marks below 50 per cent indicate the need for the development of strategies to address the student’s specific learning needs in order to
    support his or her success in learning” (p.41, Growing Success, 2010).

    There are lots of challenges here. Especially on the practical side with moving from SBG to % or % to SBG. Let’s chat sometime!

    • Wow, I did not realize that we were talking past each other in this way! I must admit that I have no idea whether I am representative of the way teachers in the US use these levels and the words “Beginning, Developing, Proficient, Mastery.” However, I must say that after thinking about it for a bit, how do you tell a student how close they are to understanding a topic if they are below 50%? I know that the words “Proficient” and “Passing” are not interchangeable, but I suppose I was using them a little too closely. However, I know that I have many students who would be just fine with a C- (barely passing) in my class, and I want them to come away from my class proficient in at least half the skills and concepts. Perhaps it’s my understanding of the word “Proficient”–I dunno if that’s already been heavily debated/discussed somewhere (on twitter?) but it might be worth a conversation.

      The thing that really surprises me on the document you linked is the conversion chart for Grades 1-6 (I’m aware you don’t teach those years, and perhaps grades at that level should mean very different things from secondary years), but it seems a bit silly to convert like that, where A=1, B=2, C=3, and D=4, even down to the +/- specifics. What’s the point of using numbers 1-4 if they’re just going to replace the letter grades at a 1:1 ratio? To me, a “C” means something very different than “Developing”. Perhaps it would help to talk about a specific standard: allow me to make up an example.

      “Standard #1: students can add single-digit and double-digit numbers” (Very simple, I know, and I highly doubt that’s how it’s worded anywhere, but that’s how I would word it to my students in my class cause it makes sense to me.)

      Beginning: A student may have memorized single-digit addition, but doesn’t understand why or where these come from.

      Developing: A student has demonstrated the procedure, but often forgets to carry the one or often makes another mistake or something like that.

      Proficient: The student is beginning to grasp what “addition” means in the real world (perhaps demonstrated by applying that knowledge to some situations?), and usually gets the double-digit addition right, with only a few mistakes.

      Mastery/Expert: The student rarely (if ever) makes a mistake, can calculate quickly (should this be a factor?), and understands at a high level, for example, why we “carry the one” when adding double-digits.

      So this is NOT me having read anything or being given what these words mean, this is just me using what I thought these words mean and applying them into this specific context. Perhaps this should be more rigorously defined and applied, but I’m not sure that’s the point of SBG anyway. I would imagine that if 1-4 all correspond to various levels of passing, then a student at a “Beginning” understanding of single and double-digit addition would be much more advanced than what I described above, though I imagine it would be much more difficult to distinguish between the levels.

      I’m curious what other SBG-ers think about these levels, and am definitely going to ask around and look into it some more. Thanks, as always, for your comments and the perspective you bring to help me develop my thinking, Jim! We’ll definitely continue this conversation!

  2. So much we can continue to talk about here… Just a quick comment:

    “but it seems a bit silly to convert like that, where A=1, B=2, C=3, and D=4, even down to the +/- specifics. What’s the point of using numbers 1-4 if they’re just going to replace the letter grades at a 1:1 ratio?”


    This is precisely why I prefaced my comment with: “Without going into whether I agree with changing from SBG to % grades or vice versa,”

    Since there are inherent problems with it.

    Perhaps the +/- are created to cater to teachers who are not used to thinking in terms of categories yet — and just in terms of percentages. So maybe they are more like training wheels.

    But in any case, I am looking forward to continuing our conversations at some point!

  3. Allen

    We have just begun this process this year. Much to learn and process, but all in all, a fair way to assess over the outdated 100-90, 90-80, etc. models of the past. I’ll try and share we are at from time to time. I’m trying to utilize Marzano models as much as I possibly can.

  4. Pingback: First Year into SBG: a Summary | Hilbert's Hotel

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