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Standards Based Grading Q & A
Michelle Andrews
Tuesday, October 09, 2018

What is standards-based grading?

Standards-based grading communicates how students are performing on a set of clearly defined learning targets called standards. The purpose of standards-based grading is to identify 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.

 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, 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 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 performance indicates. Standards-based report cards separate academic performance from work habits and behavior in order to provide parents 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 marks determined?

 A student’s performance on a series of assessments (both formative and summative) 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.

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

A 4 indicates that the student consistently demonstrates grade-level standards independently without the use of strategies or tools.

A 3 indicates the student is progressing towards achieving grade-level standards with minimal or no assistance.

A 2 indicates the student is showing limited progress towards achieving grade-level standards with on-going assistance and/or uses strategies or tools only as prompted by the teacher.

A 1 indicates the student is showing no progress towards achieving grade-level standards with on-going assistance and the use of strategies and tools prompted by the teacher.

ND indicates that the student has given no evidence to show their understanding of grade-level standards.

How subjective are standards-based grades?

Traditional grading averages all of the work and other subjective factors that a student has done over a semester. SBG removes extraneous factors and solely focuses on proficiency. Standards-Based Grading assesses a student’s overall work and their most recent work, so it really tells us what a student has learned and what they now know rather than what they knew walking into the class.

 In traditional grading, the student’s performance for the whole quarter would be averaged and early quiz scores that were low would be averaged together with proficient performance later in the course resulting in a lower grade. In standards based grading, a student who reaches proficiency would be reported proficient and the grade would reflect current performance level. In addition, traditional grading often includes other subjective factors like attendance, effort, and attitude, which might influence the grade positively or negatively. In standards based grading, we will report proficiency and work habits separately in order to give a more accurate report of student progress.

 What is the plan for the students who have already achieved grade level standards at the beginning of the year?

Through standards ­based instructional methods, teachers will know if students have already mastered concepts prior to a lesson or unit. It will give teachers an early opportunity to provide meaningful and challenging work for these students. Teachers individualize instruction so that students continue to grow and progress. This will be no different with the new reporting tool. In fact, more than ever, teachers will be able to see who really has mastered the standard and who needs additional instruction or intervention.

Additionally, once D276 reviews, rewrites and has a new acceleration policy in place for early entrance into kindergarten, early entrance into first grade, content area acceleration and grade level acceleration, parents or a teacher may request an evaluation of a student who they believe meets the criteria for acceleration, and an evaluation will be completed and decision made based upon the results of that evaluation. 

Further information on the district’s acceleration policy will be sent home to all parents and posted on the district’s website upon completion and Board approval.

 Are teachers really reviewed based on a child’s growth?

Thirty percent of each teacher’s evaluation is based upon student growth in the State of Illinois.  Teachers identify the assessments they will use to measure their students’ growth, as well as the growth goal and the percentage of students that will meet the goal.

Standards based grading should be very helpful to teachers in identifying deficient skills and remediating those skills before the end of the year assessments are given.

 How will I know if my child needs help?

 Receiving a 1, 2, * or  ND (Not Demonstrated) 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.

 Will there be weekly reporting on Skyward?

There will not be weekly reporting on Skyward, as in standards based grading students receive grades on formative or summative assessments only, and they are not averaged.  Rather, teachers will look at how students performed on the individual standards throughout the trimester and see what level of understanding students are performing at most consistently toward the end of that trimester. Student formative and summative assessment will be kept and/or sent home, so parents can see their child’s progression on standards throughout the trimester.

 Is there such a thing a a 5?

There is not a 5 at this time.  There are districts which have a 5 to indicate a student is working at a level beyond the grade-level standard consistently.  With content-area  or grade-level acceleration for students who meet the district’s acceleration policy criteria with a parent or teacher request we do not believe a grade of 5 is necessary, but may revisit its incorporation into the grading system in the future.

 Within a classroom, children are in different groups based on skills and knowledge.  How are they graded when they are doing different work?

Students within a classroom are grouped during Guided Reading or Guided Math Centers according to ability as determined through M.A.P. (Measures of Academic Progress) scores and/or classroom academic performance.  In these centers instruction, class work, and formative assessment is differentiated to meet the academic needs of the groups whether to remediate skills that are below grade level, work on grade level skills or enrich with above-grade level or higher levels of application of skills than would be expected by grade level standards.  The work and assessment from Guided Reading and Guided Math Centers will not be used to determine the numerical proficiency indicator each child receives on the standards based progress report after trimester 1 and 2 or the final report card after trimester 3. Whether your child received a 4, 3, 2, 1 or ND on each standard will be determined only by how they perform on grade level formative and summative assessments.

 What is the plan to keep children who are driven by success engaged?

Through standards ­based instructional methods, teachers will know if students have already mastered concepts prior to a lesson or unit. It will give teachers an early opportunity to provide meaningful and challenging work for these students. Teachers individualize instruction so that students continue to grow and progress. This will be no different with the new reporting tool. In fact, more than ever, teachers will be able to see who really has mastered the standard and who needs additional instruction or intervention.

 Is standards based grading at the grade school level only?

This year standards based grading is being implemented K-5 only in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math.  The process of implementing standards based grading will be researched at the middle school level as well, but from experience, we know it is a process that takes a year or more of preparation.