Standards-Based Quizzing

This year in AP Physics 1 I’ve made a step towards Standards-Based Grading. I know I am several years behind the curve on this, but I am glad that I finally decided to make it happen. The slower pace of AP Physics 1 has made a big difference; I don’t see how I could be doing this in AP Physics B.

Over the summer, Tiffany Taylor of Rogers Heritage High and I worked to institute SBG, based largely on Frank Noschese’s excellent blog post, Keep It Simple Standards-Based Grading. I started with standards that other people (Frank Noschese, Mark Hammond on an older website) had published on their websites, based on the 9 modeling units that are presented at most modeling physics workshops.

Here’s a summary of differences between this year and last year:

Last year’s quiz questions – tailored after an AP exam, with difficult questions mixing topics. Usually two or three per unit. Quizzes were 20% of the grade. For most students quizzes lowered your grade and it was difficult to study for them or do consistently well.

This year’s quiz questions– frequent and straightforward, with a standard associated with each question. Each standard graded on a simple scale (2=I think you showed me that you understand the standard; 1=You seem to understand part of the standard, but not all of it; 0=I see no evidence that you understand the standard, or I see some evidence that you understand part of the standard but other evidence that you misunderstand part of the standard). Students can redo quiz questions if they have not passed the standard. This will result in  a higher grade, if they pass more standards. They can’t go down in their grade, unless they abuse the system repeatedly by not preparing for retakes of standards quizzes. Quizzes are now 35% of the grade, equal to tests.  Intended consequence: students know what they are quizzed on. Students prepare appropriately. Success rate? I think it is working for many students.

Last year’s tests – students who failed could take an alternate version, after studying with me. Something of a nightmare, and limited success for many students. They scored the same or lower, even after studying with me. A few did improve greatly and worked their way out of the fail, study, take a retest, system. Tests were 50% of the grade.

This year’s tests – you cannot retake a test. Tests are 35% of the grade, equal to standards quizzes. Thus, the primary preparation for the tests is equal in value to the tests themselves. This takes some pressure off of the students, and seems fairer to me. Intended consequence: My life is much more sane. It is much easier to write, reteach, give, and grade a short, straightforward quiz. My tests are like mini-AP tests, and some students were so far behind that studying the failed test was too big a task for them at that time. Studying standards quizzes one standard at a time breaks it down to a task they can manage.


I am keeping track of standards in a spreadsheet. The grading formula is this

Your Grade  = 50 + (Your Standards Score)/(Total # of Standards)

So, a student who averages a 1 on all standards has a 75% on quizzes. This seems much higher than they might have with points -remember, they are not getting correct answers on anything, they are just showing me they understand part of the process. All 2s would be a 100 average. For that, the student must be getting correct answers and showing that they understand all of the process.  .  .

The students are supposed to keep track of their progress, and they can apply to redo standards at our A&E (somewhat unstructured) time using a google form. Since we are on block scheduling, I am having some concerns about sharing quizzes. I have to write a lot of versions and keep them different enough so that the next day’s classes don’t know EXACTLY what’s on the quiz. This is going okay, but could go better (I suspect some students of cheating, in other words).

More updates on this later.


About marcreif

I live and teach high school physics in the town I was born in, Fayetteville, Arkansas. My professional interests include modeling instruction and Advanced Placement courses. I also work as a College Board Workshop Consultant, which means I lead Pre-AP and AP Science Teacher workshops. Lately I've also been leading a fair amount of student review sessions for the National Math and Science Initiative. I have a website for students ( and another for AP Summer Institute participants ( I tweet infrequently (@marcreif).
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2 Responses to Standards-Based Quizzing

  1. Nicole Murawski says:

    Fascinating! I’d LOVE to see a couple of examples of your Standards Quizzes, if you wouldn’t mind. 🙂

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