What is Standards Based Grading?

  • Standards-Based Grading is a system of reporting student proficiency in a number of specific learning goals (or standards). Rather than give students one grade on a test that assessed multiple skills, this system gives students a number of scores that represent their proficiency in each of the skills assessed. The idea is that at the end of the class a student has mastered the essential concepts and skills necessary for the next level. You are focused on learning, not on points.

    “A grade should not be compensation, but communication.” 
    -Rick Wormeli

    A Comparison of Grading Systems

    Standards-based Grading System

    • Based on learning goals and performance standards.  One grade is given per learning goal.
    • Standards are criterion-based.  Criteria and targets are made available to students ahead of time.
    • Measures achievement only OR separates achievement from effort and behavior.  No penalties or extra credit given.
    • Selected assessments (often only identified summative assessments) are used for grading purposes.
    • Emphasize the most recent evidence of learning when grading.

    Traditional Grading System

    • Based on quizzes, homework, tests, projects, etc.  One grade is given per assessment.
    • Assessments based on a percentage system.  Criteria for success may be unclear.
    • Uses an uncertain mix of assessment, achievement, effort, and behavior to determine the final grade.  May use late penalties and extra credit.
    • Everything goes in the gradebook, regardless of purpose.
    • Include every score, regardless of when it was collected.  Assessments record the average – not the best – work.

Why Standards-Based Grading?

    • Increases Effectiveness of Work Done for Student and Teacher
      • It's about LEARNING.
      • Providing specific feedback gives students a sense of where students are in their learning. Homework assignments and other formative assessments help judge the progress of the group as a whole before deciding how to proceed.
      • Feedback Cycle
        • Feed-up, Feedback, Feed-forward
    • Helps Teachers Adjust Instruction
      • The standards-based grade book gives a wealth of information to help the teacher adjust instruction. Some standards may require more class instruction and/or some students my need additional instruction or practice.
      • Students can also see much more information about their learning. In the traditional grade book, a student would assume she is in solid shape with a letter grade of a “C”, but standards-based grading reveals she has not mastered some crucial concepts and therefore needs to complete additional corrective activities.
    • It teaches what quality looks like.
      • In the adult world, everything is a performance assessment. Quality matters, and the ability to measure the quality of one's own work is a learned skill. We create an environment where standards can and must be met.
        • If we base our grades on standards rather than attendance, behavior, or extra credit (which often has nothing to do with course objectives), we can actually help students grapple with the idea of quality and walk away with a higher degree of self-sufficiency. We can and should report information about student performance in areas like attendance and effort, but we can report it separately from academic achievement (O'Connor, 2007; Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006).
      • If nothing else, grades should have meaning.
        • What does each grade indicate to students, parents, and teachers about what students have learned, or not learned, in a course? What does 8/10 really mean? Is 5 out of 10 ever good?  How is an 81% different from a 79%? Should we “curve” grades? When pressed to describe the qualitative difference between an A, B, C, D, or F, could we?
        • These questions are simplified in a standards-based grading system. Students are provided with the standards and the criteria on which they will be assessed in every unit and for every assessment.  Students and parents can clearly see which areas students are performing well and where they may need support.  Grades are no longer a mystery.


5-Point Rubric

  • Category 5 = Exceeds

    Student has demonstrated an unexpected understanding of required concepts and mastery of essential skills.  Student consistently performs above and beyond course expectations.

    Category 4 = Advanced

    Student has demonstrated both an excellent understanding of required concepts and mastery of essential skills.  Student consistently displays a superior performance on course expectations.

    Category 3 = Proficient

    Student has demonstrated both a good understanding of required concepts and mastery of essential skills.  Student consistently meets course expectations.

    Category 2 = Basic Understanding

    Student has demonstrated a basic understanding of required concepts and is approaching or has demonstrated a basic mastery of essential skills.  Student generally meets course expectations.

    Category 1 = Beginning

    Student infrequently demonstrates a basic understanding of course concepts and lacks mastery of essential skills.  Student generally does not meet minimum course expectations.

    Category 0 = Not Evident

    Student demonstrates little to no evidence of a basic understanding of course concepts and little to no mastery of essential skills and/or evaluation of student understanding of concepts and mastery of skills is not possible due to lack of evidence.  Student regularly does not meet minimum course expectations.

Grading by Indicator Example

  • Standard: Power Standard 6; W.9-10.a; Indicator 2

    Content Related: Main Idea Sentences (nonfiction summary, analysis, and argument)

    • 0 - No Evidence
      • Missing main idea sentence(s) OR
      • Main idea(s) is illogical or off task
    • 1 - Beginning
      • Main idea(s) is plot summary OR
      • Main idea(s) is unclear/confusing
    • 2 - Basic Understanding
      • Main Idea(s) is missing one of the two/three components
      • Answers the prompt
      • Clear claim (paragraph topic)
      • References the author/last name (for analysis writing)
    • 3 - Proficient
      • Main Idea(s) answers the prompt, includes a clear claim (paragraph topic) AND
      • References the author/last name (for analysis writing)
    • 4 - Advanced
      • Main Idea(s) answers the prompt, includes the claim (paragraoph topic) and references the author/last name (for analysis writing) AND
      • Exceptionally clear, fluent, well-worded. comprehensive yet concise.

Types of Assessments

    • Diagnostic Assessments
      • Common pre-assessments given at the beginning of each unit of instruction
      • Informs Teacher
        • what student already knows
        • what needs to still be learned/taught
        • what adjustments to make to unit based on student results
      • Informs Student
        • what is already known about unit of instruction
        • what student can expect to learn in the unit
    • Formative Assessments
      • Common “check-up” assessments given throughout the unit of instruction, usually at the end of each building block
      • Informs Teacher
        • what students have learned
        • what needs to be re-taught
        • what changes should be made to instruction to improve student learning
      • Informs Student
        • what has been learned
        • what changes need to be made to habits to improve learning outcomes
    • Summative Assessments
      • Common assessments that are performed at the end of a unit, or at a predetermined time.
      • Inform Teachers
        • what a student has learned to make a judgment of student competency.
        • are used to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs and services
        • various types (e.g., traditional tests, essays, projects, labs, presentations)
      • Inform Students
        • what has been learned
          • what “grade” is

Assessment Response

  • Teachers respond to student learning needs based on data from the various types of assessments.

    • Correctives (a.k.a. “re-teach”)
      • Used when students have not demonstrated required level of knowledge or skills
      • Focus on specific challenges
      • Students given the opportunity to “re-test” to demonstrate what they have learned
    • Enrichments
      • Used when students have already demonstrated the required knowledge or skills
      • Extend learning and challenge students
    • Re-Test
      • Formative Assessment data will be used to re-teach and re-assess student knowledge during the unit of instruction.
      • Students are required take a summative re-test on any Power Standard where mastery is not attained (“3”).
        • Retesting is not optional for the student or the teacher.
        • All students must be provided with corrective activities and then provided a re-test.
      • Student grades are no longer point-based. All students must demonstrate mastery of the standards at the level described on the rubric in order to be successdul in a class or subject area.

Daily Checking for Understanding

    • Daily Assignments
      • Daily, in-class activities help teacher monitor the effectiveness of instruction in relation to the degree of student learning
      • Student's opportunity to “show what they know”
    • Homework / Practice
      • Informs teacher and student about how the student is doing in class
      • Teacher makes adjustments to lessons based on what student has learned and what they have yet to learn
    • Class Participation
      • Indicates student understanding of lesson