Standards Based Grading

What is Standards-Based Grading?

By: Kevin Schlomer, Teacher Leader Coordinator

In education, the term standards-based refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating understanding or mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education.

What are the advantages of Standards-Based Grading?

  • Improved Feedback – In SBG environments, better feedback accelerates learning. Instead of simply giving scores like 9/10 or 85%, teachers give feedback about the task performed and skills used. This helps students understand their current areas of learning and students reach higher levels of achievement – all while being deeply engaged and enjoying school.
  • Student Ownership of Education – Learning targets are typically written in student-friendly language, so they can understand the goals of instruction. Targets may be further broken down by rubrics to map out the steps required to reach the “top of the ladder.” This allows students to understand the path to success and enables them to better engage in their learning. When working on an activity, they can self-assess and reflect on their own performance. They can identify areas of improvement and self-direct their activities. This leads to greater ownership of their learning.
  • More Relevant Instruction – In SBG classrooms, teachers better understand student mastery. This helps teachers offer level-appropriate work. By improving the use of instructional time, students learn more and make increased academic progress.
  • Accurate Measurement of Learning – One pitfall of traditional grading is inaccuracy. Student averages are highly dependent on the difficulty of work assigned. If teachers present only low complexity activities, students can earn high scores with only a weak command of the material. The opposite is also true.Highly demanding instructors may present very difficult work, resulting in overly low student scores.Curving and extra credit are used to adjust averages into more appropriate distributions. In both cases SBG can improve the situation by providing clearer criteria for measuring mastery. Mastery of low complexity work yields lower grades while mastery of higher complexity work provides higher grades. Connecting grades to complexity rather than percentage completion yields more accurate and consistent grades.

For the past five years, teachers at the elementary level have reported student progress in mathematics using a standards-based report card. As our school district upgrades to the new student learning management system, PowerSchool, elementary teachers will begin reporting student progress in every content area using a SBG report card. In 2017-18, this will include areas of mathematics, reading, writing, language, science, art, music, and physical education. During the second quarter elementary teachers will be reporting to parents using the new SGB system.