Standards Based Grading Q & A

Frequently Asked Questions about Standards-Based Grading


What is standards-based grading?

Standards-based grading communicates how students are performing on a set of clearly defined learning targets called standards. The most important purpose of standards-based education (also known as proficiency-based education)  is to clearly communicate to students what they need to know and be able to do. Standards-based grading identifies what a student knows or is able to do, in relation to pre-established learning targets, as opposed to simply averaging grades/scores over the course of a grading period, which can mask what a student has learned, or not learned, in a specific course. We are using a limited number of “Parent Standards” to report to families on the overarching standards in the content areas. In addition, teachers work with their students on a daily basis using “Priority Standards.”


How does standards-based grading differ from traditional grading?

Unlike traditional grading systems, a standards-based grading system measures a student’s mastery of grade-level standards by prioritizing the most recent or consistent level of performance. Thus a student who may have struggled at the beginning of a course, when first encountering new material, may still be able to consistently demonstrate mastery of key content/concepts by the end of a grading period. In a traditional grading system, a student’s performance for an entire quarter is averaged together. Early quiz scores that were low would be averaged together with more proficient performance later in the course, resulting in a lower overall grade than current, consistent performance indicates.


In addition, standards-based report cards separate academic performance from work habits and behavior in order to provide a more accurate view of a student’s progress in both academic and behavioral areas. Variables such as effort, participation, timeliness, cooperation, attitude and attendance are reported separately, not as an indicator of a student’s academic performance.


How are my child’s grades determined?

A student’s performance on a series of assessments will be used to determine a student’s overall grade in a course. Practice assignments (homework) are just that, practice, and thus should serve primarily as a source of feedback and instructional support for both students and teachers. Scores on practice assignments should not be used as a major component of a student’s academic grade. Teachers may require students to complete all of their practice work prior to allowing them to take, or retake, an assessment.


Will my student still receive teacher comments?

Yes. Individualized feedback is an essential component of standards-based grading. Effective feedback is a more useful source of information than simply assigning a numeric value or letter grade to student work.




What will each of the numbers in the 4 point scale represent?

A score of (4)  or (E) indicates that a student exceeds a standard by consistently demonstrating an advanced level of understanding and/or the ability to apply their knowledge at a higher level.

A score of (3) or (M) indicates that a student independently meets the standard. The student demonstrates proficiency in the standard.

A score of (2) or (Dev)  indicates that a student is developing an understanding of a standard, and is still in need of additional instruction, learning, and/or support.

A score of (1) or (Beg) indicates minimal understanding of a standard. The student is beginning to learn the standard and shows limited evidence of understanding the standard.


NG means that a standard was taught but not assessed for a grade.


INS means there is insufficient evidence of the student’s level of proficiency in the standard. This can be due to absence, a specific learning need, or other special circumstance.


How should a student/parent view student grades now that the system of A-F has been replaced by a 4 point scale?  What is considered to be an A in the new grading system?

You cannot really compare a traditional grading system to standards-based grading. It is like comparing “apples to oranges”. Standards-based grading identifies a standard and indicates whether or not a student is meeting the standard at a given point in the school year. A score of (3) is defined as meeting grade level standards and indicates that a student has demonstrated mastery of the skills that were expected to be learned by that point in the grading period.


Is it possible to achieve a grade of 4?

Yes it is. However, a score of (4) indicates performance that is consistently well above what is expected for mastery of the standard. Level 4 work would indicate a much deeper understanding of a standard, the ability to apply that knowledge, make connections and extend learning beyond the targeted goal.


If a student receives 1’s all year, does that mean the student will be retained?

Interventions are in place at all of our schools to support learners who are struggling in math and reading. If a student receives 1’s, it means his/her work is not yet meeting grade level standards. A number of academic interventions will be offered to those students who are struggling to meet the established standards. Grade level retention is not a practice that is generally supported by research.


How will I know if my child needs help?

Receiving a 1 or INS (insufficient evidence) on a grade report/report card can be a sign that a student is in need of extra support in the areas where they are receiving low marks. This is one benefit of a standards-based report card, areas in need of support are clearly evident.




What is a Habits of Work grade?

The Habits of Work grade will indicate a student’s ability to meet pre-established behavioral guidelines in the areas of respect, responsibility and engagement. All students will receive a Habits of Work grade, which is separate from their academic grade.


The Habits of Work are also assessed on a 4 point scale.

A score of 4 indicates that the students always demonstrates positive habits of work and is a positive role model.

A score of 3 indicates that the student consistently demonstrates positive habits of work.

A score of 2 indicates that the student sometimes demonstrates positive habits of work and consistently requires adult redirection.

A score of 1 indicates that the student rarely demonstrates positive habits of work, and requires adult redirection most of the time.


How does the standards-based report card compare to the traditional letter grade system? Standards-based growth indicator reporting is different from traditional letter grade reporting. Letter grades are typically calculated by combining how well the student met a teacher’s expectations, how the student performed on assignments and tests, how much effort the teacher believes the student put in, and how the student is doing in comparison to classmates. Letter grades do not tell parents which skills their child has mastered or whether he or she is working at grade level. The standards-based report card measures how well an individual student is doing in relation to the grade level standards, not the work of other students. This gives parents a better understanding of their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and encourages all students to do their best


How will a student on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) be assessed on a standards-based report card?

The learning standards for all students are generally the same. Students with an IEP may have specific, specially designed instruction and/or accommodations that provide supports to better access the standards, by providing scaffolding and support necessary for that student to access and demonstrate knowledge of a standard. For all students with an IEP, a supplemental progress report is provided that identifies how the student is progressing on the goals determined in the IEP on an individualized, case-by-case basis, based on the student’s disability-related needs.


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