SBG in My History Classroom Part 3: What I've Done the Past 3 Years

For the past three years, I’ve taught an 11th Grade US History class. At this point, it’s hard to separate when I started doing different things, so I’m just going to describe what i ended up with as a single product, even though it was developed over time.

One of my goals in assessing based on standards was to simplify things for the sake of both myself and my students. In the end, I used SBG only for writing, because as I taught 350 different terms throughout the year, I knew it would be impossible to keep track of all the content. I wrote the standards based on the rubrics from the wonderful New York Performance Standards Consortium, of which my school was briefly a member three years ago. These rubrics represent college-ready performance. This fall, I led an effort to create a common analytical writing rubric that could be used both to measure student’s college-readiness, and also their performance on the writing portions of the NY Regents Exams for History and English, which was largely based on the Consortium rubrics. The writing standards I ended up with were:


  • Thesis is convincing, thoughtful, relevant, & precise
  • Thesis is developed thoughtfully, logically & persuasively throughout the piece

Analysis & Evidence

  • The work use a variety of convincing evidence to support their thesis
  • The work uses analysis to demonstrate how evidence supports the thesis


  • The work has a clear introduction presenting the thesis in a highly engaging, compelling manner
  • Each paragraph presents an argument clearly and supports an overall structure
  • Consistent, effective transitions develop ideas and arguments logically & build to compelling, persuasive conclusion.


  • The work consistently and beautifully applies a format and diction that is appropriate to purpose, audience and context
  • The work uses varied sentence length and structure to enhance meaning


  • Mechanical and grammatical errors are non-existent
  • Follows MLA conventions for quotations and citations flawlessly

Focusing on these few standards gave me a system where I could easily track students work overtime and communicate that clearly to students and parents. It also allowed me to pinpoint where students’ writing needed improvement.
There was a lot missing, though. While it would never make sense to use that state history standards that go into every little piece of content, it would make sense to develop standards for each of the core understandings in each of my units. I also needed to add some standards that correspond to the Habits of Mind necessary to think like a historian.