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Parent/Teacher Conferences and Standards-Based Grading
Michelle Andrews
Thursday, November 14, 2019

Parent/Teacher Conferences and Standards-Based Grading 

Abingdon-Avon CUSD #276 will have Parent/Teacher conferences on the evenings of November 20 and 21. This is an opportunity for parents to discuss with teachers how their children are performing academically and socially so far this school year. 

In its second year of implementation, the Abingdon-Avon CUSD #276 elementary schools have been utilizing standards-based grading. Standards-based grading reports student proficiency through a number of specific learning goals, or standards. The standards are the skills and concepts students are expected to learn, analyze, process, and understand, not just memorize and repeat.  The reporting then becomes a true reflection of what a student actually knows or can do, and not an average of what they have done on activities, assignments, or assessments over a period of time. 

Through assessments teachers are able to give students specific feedback about their strengths and challenges. Instead of one score on an overall assessment, students are given multiple scores and feedback that represent their proficiency in each of the skills assessed.  The goal is that by the end of the year, students are proficient (showing grade level understanding) of the essential standards necessary to move on to the next grade level. 

In order to get the most out of your upcoming parent/teacher conference here are some frequently asked questions about standards-based grading and how it relates to your student’s performance: 

  1. How do standards-based grades differ from traditional letter grades? 

Traditional letter grades are a combination of students meeting a teacher’s expectations, students’ effort, and student performance on assignments and tests. These grades fail to inform parents which specific skills their child has mastered or whether they are working at grade level. 

Standards-based grades focus on identifying student performance strengths and needs within the context of specific grade level standards. This system highlights the most recent, consistent level of student performance rather than an average of their assessment performance.

  1. How are grades decided?

Standards-based grades communicate what happens during student learning. Performance levels are used to classify student performances into categories that describe the knowledge, skills, and practices students in the category typically are able to demonstrate, including consistency with which they can demonstrate these traits. Abingdon-Avon CUSD #276 utilizes the following performance levels for determining trimester student academic achievement levels: a student receiving an “ND” has little to no evidence determining the knowledge, skills, or understanding of the grade level standard; a student receiving a “1” demonstrates limited knowledge and skills in the subject matter; a “2” indicates a student needs support to progress toward mastery of the grade level standard expectation; a student receiving a “3” has met grade level standard expectations; and a student receiving a “4” exceeds grade level standard expectations. Specific rubrics are used for determining performance for individual assignments, projects, and other assessments. 

  1. How do I understand the grades?

Standards-based grades do not correlate to traditional letter grades.  Therefore, a “4” does not equate to an “A” nor does a “3” equate to a “B” and so on. Standards-based grades simply provide information about how students perform as measured against content standards. If a student receives a “3”, they are considered “proficient”, meaning they have demonstrated a solid understanding of the knowledge and skills expected at this grade level, and a student receiving a “1” or a “2” provides vital information to parents about concepts with which their students are struggling. 

  1. How will I know if my student is on track throughout the year?

Communication with teachers throughout the school year is vital to understanding how your child is progressing throughout the school year.  Student progress is visible through “I Can” binders and feedback given on assessments.  

  1. Why is it that my student can get all the answers correct on an assignment but not get a “4”?

Students at a level “4” demonstrate a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of rigorous subject matter and provide sophisticated solutions to complex problems. Students demonstrate a deeper understanding of grade level standards. As such, a student who received straight “A’s” in the traditional grading system, may not have necessarily excelled beyond the grade level standards but are considered “proficient” and working at grade level, in which they would have earned a “3”.

A “4” indicates students have the ability to independently demonstrate level “3” tasks and readiness and are able to take it to another level with little or no instruction.  If students show a high level of mastery, then they can move on to more challenging work. Not all assignments have level 4 work included, as many students are just in the beginning stages of learning and are not ready to transfer their learning to a more complex task, therefore earning a “4” is not possible. If students demonstrate they already have mastery of the standard, the teacher can provide opportunities for continued practice as well as level “4” experiences to extend student learning above and beyond the standard. Students may be ready for level “4” tasks in one standard, but not in another, it all depends on their proficiency with the standards. 

Remember that learning is a process and all students demonstrate learning at their own pace. Standards-based grading allows you to see the current progress your child demonstrates towards each grade level standard. This progress will be indicated on the trimester progress reports. At the end of the school year, student proficiency toward each grade level standard will be reported on the end-of-the-year report card. Use parent/teacher conferences as a time to discuss with your child’s teacher their strengths and areas of need to progress towards achieving essential grade level standards by the end of the school year.