Guide for Standards-Based Learning (SBL)

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Want just the basics of this initiative? See this one-page flyer.

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While SDUSD elementary schools have been using Standards-Based Learning (SBL) practices for some years now, secondary schools are now transitioning learning and grading practices towards a Standards-Based Learning framework. As partners in your student's educational journey, we are excited to share with you what that means and what shifts you can expect throughout this process.

What is Standards-Based Learning (SBL)?

SBL is an approach to learning that helps track students' progress towards a set of clearly defined prioritized standards (Critical Concepts). Teachers use consistent and targeted feedback with students, in alignment with these Critical Concepts, to support their growth in what they know (knowledge) and what they can do (skills). For secondary students, student scores are used at the end of a course to determine a final letter grade based on a student's demonstrated level of proficiency.

Why Standards-Based Learning?

Best practices in SBL lead to greater consistency, clarity, accuracy, and equity in teaching, assessment, and grading. How?

Clearly defined learning goals TK-12 help create alignment across the district and strengthen instructional focus in classrooms.

✭ Students have the opportunity to demonstrate progress towards learning goals in multiple times and in multiple ways.

Student feedback and self-assessment opportunities provide clarity and support collaborative goal setting opportunities.

Emphasis is placed on the learning process, not just a final grade.

Grades reflect students' academic progress in clearly defined learning goals (non-academic factors are removed from the academic grade).

Drawing on best practices within Standards-Based Learning, what might you experience?

  • Using a 4-point scale, students receive scores on assignments and assessments aligned to Proficiency Scales (see 'Families' tab for more information on Proficiency Scales). This allows teachers, students and parents to track progress toward grade-level standards and to set goals for next steps in learning.

  • As students progress in a course, scored assessments and assignments should trend upwards (increase) over time. For example, a student’s first reported scores may be a 1 or a 2, as they start their learning journey. From there, scores should trend upwards to a 3 (or possibly 4), as more opportunities for learning and assessment are provided and learning progresses.

  • Students are provided opportunities for revision and reassessment.

  • Students will still receive a letter grade on their report cards. In secondary schools, a conversion scale helps with the translation of most recent scores (numbers) into a final letter grade at the end of a course (or reporting period).

  • This shift empowers teachers, students, and families to be collaborators in a student's learning journey. How a student is doing in a course and what is needed to progress towards grade-level target should be clear and accessible to everyone. For more information about what your student is specifically learning or practicing in a course and how their progress is being reported, please reach out to your student's teacher.

For more details about our District priorities for advancing Standards-Based Learning go to the FAQ tab.