A Standards-Based Class Website

I made the switch to SBG (Standards Based Grading) this year, and one thing I discovered about my course is that I do not provide nearly enough scaffolding support for students to study the material in the way that they can best learn it. I saw this across the entire course, but I also saw this on a standard-by-standard basis. Often a student needed to study for a quiz they did poorly on and the best advice I could give was “Study the quiz I gave back to you!”. [2]

So I decided to edit my class website around the standards and create a page on my website for each standard.

Here’s where I am 7 standards in:

Drop-down Menu Drop-down Menu-zoom

Each webpage looks something like this:



So on it, I (try to) clearly explain what each standard means in terms of “I can” statements. I also have resources for learning and practicing the standard [3], as well as vocabulary.

Notice that I have both online material and worksheets that students can print off for those who have no internet at home (they have access to computers & a printer throughout the school day while at school). Notice also that (nearly) all of those worksheets have the answers with them.

This summer I intend to continue adding resources, and I have some questions of the MTBoS:

  1. If you had a website/webpage like this, what else would you provide for your students?
  2. Are there other good resources for practice or learning that you would include?
  3. How would you encourage students to use this?

I described my idea to one particularly motivated student of mine and she exclaimed “OMG, why didn’t you do that this year?!?”, to which I had to explain how teachers become better every year. I told her to be thankful she didn’t have me 3 years ago. 🙂

Here are some links to the standards I’ve made so far for my Precalculus class[4]:

I plan on working on this tool over the summer. It will do several things for me:

  1. Organize my materials as a teacher for other teachers to use.
  2. Focus on what “Proficiency” and “Mastery” means on each topic I teach (by working out the “I can” statements) [5].
  3. Help me learn the textbook that was new this year to my class, and which I used very little.

As always, thank you for reading and providing feedback, MTBoS!


[1] When I hear scaffolding, this is what I think of. Besides, that’s an edu-jargon term.

[2] This isn’t bad advice, but it also shouldn’t be the best I can do.

[3] Yes, that’s Khan Academy that you see there because I believe that KA can be a good resource. No, it don’t in any way replace good teaching, but for some students and some topics, it can be extremely helpful.

[4] These standards are subject to change, so please give advice to me if you see something funny about them as well.

[5] I hope to look at standards that other states provide, as well as “breakdowns of the standards”. Those things never interested me before SBG.



Filed under Teaching

12 responses to “A Standards-Based Class Website

  1. “Scaffolding” is edu-jargon but “SBG” and “standards-based” isn’t?


    • Haha. Yeah, I heard the word “scaffolding” a bunch back in grad school, but never heard of “standards-based” anything, so I guess they’re different in my mind.

      I appreciated your recent (it may have been a while back?) post on SBG and am trying to reconcile the “dangling grades in front of students all the time” problem that SBG has the potential to cause. I need to do more personal reading on the damage that too much summative assessment can have on a student’s education to mitigate that with my grading policies, whatever they might become next year. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the post,

    Let me begin by saying that I love the idea of having the standards be transparent so that the students have a good sense as to what’s going on, and what they are expected to know. I am not completely familiar with the US implementation of standards based grading. As a result, I may be misinterpreting the purpose and details of how the US has chosen to implement standards based grading.

    But having said that though, I think I won’t be making any generalized comments about SBG anyway. I will speak more specifically about the approach you’ve proposed:

    A. “Standards” and “wording”
    I would be very careful about how my standards have been created. I would be very careful about constructing a perception of mathematics that portrays it as a set of skills. I think that is one of the biggest challenges, and misconceptions of standards. We are not categorizing mathematics into separate bins that all build towards the same thing. It’s more like we are developing several areas in the landscape of mathematics. And we need to value the connections and deep understandings – more than the procedural skills. I think a good way to do this may be to use different types of action words. Instead of words like “find” or “recognize” – maybe use words like “investigate” or “make connections between” or something like that? Or even phrases like “Solve problems involving exponent operations”

    As a separate wording thing.. instead of “I can”, what about “by the end of the course, I will be able to”.

    B. Co-creation of criteria

    I understand that you plan on working on these web pages during the summer — but I think there is a huge value in co-creating these “standards” or “criteria for success” with your students instead. In other words, create what “understanding” looks like during class, and take a picture (or summarize) and upload them onto your website during the school year. I think the participation will also help your students better understand the criteria — instead of having them all exist and be told to them.

    C. If you like Idea B. I think you can still have “suggested resources” on those pages. Let’s not get into the discussion surrounding KA here… but you can certainly have suggested resources within those webpages still, and upload the co-constructed criteria during the school year.

    Ok, those were 3 main suggestions I was going to talk about.

    I don’t want to ignore your 3 questions though:
    1. If you had a website/webpage like this, what else would you provide for your students?

    A forum might be nice? It seems that you are moving to creating a lot of resources for your kids online. I know that you have ipads in the classroom – so a space on that website for students to chat/discuss might be a good idea. You can assign them accounts and passwords if necessary?

    2. Are there other good resources for practice or learning that you would include?

    If you somehow have past student work that would actually be great!

    3. How would you encourage students to use this?

    The co-constructing idea B will encourage ownership, and so hopefully also promotes usage.

    • Wow, thanks a ton, Jim. I really appreciate your critique and thoughts. I really like the idea of co-creating these with my students. I just need to be mindful of students getting bogged down into the technology side of things.

      Yes, I agree that math should be seen as more of a landscape rather than a compartmentalization of skills. Perhaps I’m not putting my best foot forward by putting forward those particular skills above: those are very technical skills that I expect Precalculus students to have in their inventory before coming to me. The very next standard (and the first not-total-review standard of my course) is titled “Connecting the 4 Representations of Functions”. But that is a good reminder that this web-page thing highlights the differences in standards & skills and doesn’t include the connectivity of it all. Perhaps I can make some sort of web-diagram-esque page or pages to highlight the inter-connectivity.

      You know, I’ve tried the forum thing, but I found that students didn’t really go after it like I had hoped they would. I think my problem was that I didn’t push it enough in class. This past year I pushed blogs more (using Kidblog.org) and had mixed results. Some students really enjoyed using it, but eventually found that it wasn’t worth their time. The other issue with either forums or blogs is that math notation, especially for Precalculus, just isn’t easy to “type out”. But that’s definitely something I look at connecting to the page as a page-by-page basis. Maybe something like an FAQ where students can leave their questions?

      Yes, past-student work would be great, if only I had kept more!

      I do have some work, and now will certainly include that in future pages (like I mentioned above, so far I only have the “review” material), so thanks for that connection!

      Lastly, when using the wording “I can” vs “by the end of the course, I will be able to…”, I’m trying to walk a fine line between being readable to my students and matching what I believe pedagogically. I totally agree that the 2nd phrase would help them get into the growth mindset better, but will it lose them before they even get to the standards? I don’t know. Definitely something to think about, so thank you!

  3. I’m glad I stumbled upon your post tonight. I attended Rick Wormeli’s SBG conference last week and walked away with a lot to think about. This is my second year using SBG and while I feel there’s a lot I’m doing right, there’s always more to be fixed. Rick is good about reminding us of this. Your SBG website is impressive and I too had a similar thought of providing my students with better resources about half way through the school year. I started a spreadsheet which is accessible to my students giving them practice problems, videos along with links to all of the warm up problems and activities we do in class. I’ll paste the link below to a sample page, but I’m not sure if it will actually go through. Like your website, this is a continued work in progress and it will NEVER be exactly what I want but it’s good for the students. I love your answer to the kid who asked why you haven’t given them access to these resources before and I’m going to steal it. I applaud your efforts with SBG and look forward to future blog posts. Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks a ton. I actually just attended Rick Wormeli’s SBG conference as well just 2 weeks ago (he was in Albuquerque).

      I love your spreadsheet, and will certainly steal from it (thanks!), but it reminds me of the problem all of us precal teachers have: there is such a varying of the curriculum from one precal class to the next. I’m the only precal teacher at my school, and I’m constantly asking the AP calc teacher what he wants students to have coming out of my class, but even then, we all teach such different stuff.

      Out of curiosity, where do you get the curriculum for your class? Rick Wormeli has a saying that I’m not sure what I thought of: “You (the teachers) aren’t responsible for determining the curriculum–your pay grade isn’t high enough for that!” Fortunately (or unfortunately) I teach at a private school with no high-stakes testing at the end of the year, so I can teach whatever I deem important.

      • Our department has 13 teachers with 3 of us teaching precalc. In past practice we have based our curriculum on the textbook we use along with the needs of our calculus teachers. After much reflection and long conversations we are just now coming around to using the textbook to supplement the curriculum instead of the other way around. The CCSS has helped to set the foundation and we’ve been building around that.

        I understand what Rick is saying regarding curriculum however if the teachers aren’t setting the curriculum, who is? Administrators? If that’s the case, I think a lot of teachers would be insulted that our input was not valued. Giving teachers a say in the curriculum makes for happy teachers (mostly).

      • I think he would say “curriculum coordinators” are the ones who are responsible. We had one (some?) of those back in NC when I taught there, but now I don’t have one since I’m at a small private school.

        Yeah, the CCSS didn’t cover even a quarter of my curriculum from what I remember. Perhaps I need to go back and investigate the Alg II curriculum a little more and dig through some stuff.

        That’s great that you guys are able to meet and plan out the curriculum. That’s one of the things I’d like to have one day… maybe if I move back east I’ll get more than I’ve bargained for. 🙂

  4. I’m not part of “MTBOS”, but here are my two cents…

    On my class website, I have some extra problems and answers to the problems (but not solutions) divided by model (not by standard—and I purposely don’t ever list problems by standard… well, and almost no problem ever only has to do with only one standard). I’ve done a website like this for several years, and some students have found it really useful. I also have the link to take an extra quiz, a link to ActiveGrade, an anonymous feedback form, and some other advice and help. I also put some readings on the page that I developed with my colleague but have stopped putting straight into the materials. KA isn’t especially useful for physics (actually, sort of the opposite—for example, this year I have a student who swears by it and has picked up the very specific misconceptions and errors from his videos—and can’t seem to get rid of them), so no links to that, but sometimes I put Veritasium videos there where I think they will be helpful (especially for forces). And things like Super Ultimate Graphing Challenge. Etc.

    • I haven’t watched the KA for Physics, but neither have I recommended them, so thank you for the heads up. I can definitely see how they can encourage misconceptions.

      I can see how for physics, putting the entire model on a page, rather than a standard, would be best. I’ll certainly do something like that for Physics, so thanks for your suggestion. I think math lends itself to breaking into smaller chunks, although hopefully I’m not segmenting math too much by doing this!

      And yes, the Veritaserum videos are great, so thanks for that reminder.

      Thank you for the cents, Kelly! (Is there a PTBoS that I’m missing out on?)

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