Standards Based Grading FAQ

Is Willowbrook Middle School moving towards standards-based grading?

The 2017-2018 school year will be a transition year. Reading, Writing, and Social Studies classes will be piloting standards-based grading this year (2017-2018). All additional departments will be using this year to finalize the necessary changes. For the 2018-2019 school year, all of Willowbrook Middle School will be fully vested into Standards-Based Grading.

What is standards-based grading? How does standards-based grading work?

The concept is based on a set of learning goals called standards. Every assessment whether a test or a quiz may be on one or more standard. Students will receive feedback on each standard that will guide them on their progress. For example, on a math test you may receive an 80%, but what does that tell you? It shares how many problems were correct or wrong. That is it. In the same math test in standards-based grading, this would show that your child got all of the adding, subtraction, and multiplication problems correct while missing all of the division problems. Now both you and your child know to focus on division problems.

What are the standards?

These are locally selected (or building-determined) standards aligned with expectations for HCHS.

Is there a list of standards for each course?

Teachers collaborate within content departments to organize standards into separate teaching units. These are the only standards to be assessed during that instructional unit.

What is the purpose of standards-based grading?

To accurately represent students’ abilities rather than the assignment or extra credit they complete.

Will Willowbrook be moving from quarters to trimesters?

Yes. The move from quarters to trimesters at Willowbrook was due to the mission of the paradigm shift: to better inform parents of the progress of their child(ren). As a result, the trimesters are aligned directly with parent-teacher conferences. The first trimester ends before the winter conferences in November so that the progress of the student can be shared in person between teacher and parents. The second trimester ends just before the spring conferences in February, allowing teachers and parents to again discuss the progression towards end-of-grade goals. The final report card will go home with students at the end of the school year. Since we are still working out all aspects, the 7th and 8th grade Encore classes (Band, Choir & Electives) will continue on a quarterly rotation for this year.

Why is Willowbrook Middle School making this shift in grading philosophy?

The first benefit is that the grading system will be utilized throughout the building. The Willowbrook Standards on the report card will show progression from the earliest years (dating back to PHS) up to its most current grades. In this way parents will be better able to interpret student growth from one year to the next. That is, parents will receive more detailed information as to where their child struggles or thrives academically. With the skills parsed out, parents will be able to identify both the challenges for and strengths of their students as they progress through the grades.

Secondly, the mission of the traditional classroom has been to teach students ‘all’ the skills. This new paradigm shifts the focus to what has been learned by the students, not what has been taught to the students. The level the student has achieved is not an average of where they have performed throughout the year, but rather a measure of student performance at the end of each trimester.

How does Hononegah feel about this shift in philosophy?

“We are very excited about the potential of standards based grading. We have several teachers at HCHS who are already grading on a standards based system, and they have seen many positive changes in student engagement and learning. We are a long way from making this kind of leap as building, but there is no doubt that standards based grading is the direction that education at all levels is heading. The catch is that high schools may be the slowest to shift. This shift is one of the reasons I think our Workplace Readiness program is so important. In the long run it will allow teachers to report on the soft skills that are so important to student’s success after high school. HHS will be able to work with you so your students and families will feel comfortable with their placements.”—HHS Administration

How does standards-based grading differ from traditional grading?

You cannot really compare a traditional grading system to standards-based grading. It is like comparing “apples to oranges.”

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 scores later in the course. This would result in a lower overall grade than current performance would indicate.

A standards-based grading system measures a student’s mastery of grade level standards by prioritizing the most recent, 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 demonstrate mastery of key content/concepts by the end a grading period.

Traditional vs. SBG

How do you expect parents to explain to their children why they did not get a 4?

It is important that parents and teachers have honest conversations with students. Some concepts and skills are more difficult to grasp than others, but given time and motivation, students can continually challenge themselves. Attitudes are contagious, and it is important that adults convey to the child that learning is a process that needs to be respected. A score of 2 while learning a new skill or concept is appropriate. A score of 3 demonstrating mastery is to be celebrated. A score of 4 indicates a strength being recognized that is above and beyond the grade-level expectations.

Is it possible to achieve a grade of a 4?

Yes it is. However, a score of 4 indicates performance that is consistently above what is expected for mastery at that point in the year. 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 target goal.

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

Intervention classes are in place at Willowbrook Middle School to support learners who are behind in math and reading. If a student receives 1’s or 2’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 2 on a grade/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 the difference between formative and summative assessments?

Formative assessments are “practice” assessments, while summative assessments are the “real game.” These formatives are designed to enhance student learning prior to the summative, so students will still be held accountable for completing them.

How many times can a student reassess on a specific standard?

Reassessments will be offered at teachers' discretion.

Will the teacher encourage each student to redo an assessment if they are below mastery or will it be up to the student?

Any student not achieving mastery on a standard and receives a (1) is required to retake the assessment for that standard. Those students who receive a (2) will have the option to retake an assessment.

What does my child need to do before he/she can reassess? When will reassessment take place?

Your child will need to meet with their teacher to establish a remediation plan to show growth of knowledge before they can reassess. These reassessments will take place during Independent Study or a pre-designated time established with the teacher.

How will students with an IEP be graded? Will they be graded differently?

Students will still be graded on mastery of learning targets. If it is determined by a student’s team that a student needs accommodations to master a target, then accommodations are in place and the student is measured on the same target. The accommodations are then reviewed by the teacher(s) to determine the need for ongoing support.

If a student’s team determines that modifications should be put into place, then the student is graded based on progress toward the specifically modified goals.

What does the standards-based report card tell parents?

The standards-based report card:

  • Identifies the learning standards to be met at the end of each grade level.
  • Provides specific information about your child’s progress in meeting the year end standard.
  • Shows area for continued growth.

What is the effect on the GPA?

The goal in standards-based grading is to move away from a GPA mind-set and rather truly reflecting on student learning.

Who established the standards-based grading policies and procedures?

A committee comprised of teachers and administration.