By Erin Knudtson, Board of Education and Michael Scott, Director of Teaching and Learning
Standards based grading (SBG) is a grading system that measures students’ progress towards mastery of specific learning goals. These goals or standards are developed at the state level. Our district has been working hard over the past several years to align our educational goals and instruction with those of the state standards, and to develop consistent and reliable ways to measure achievement of those goals. Change is always hard, and this is a newer concept for our community, so we want to explain why SBG is important and how this is being done in our schools.
Most of us experienced traditional grading while attending school, where items such as assignments, tests, and quizzes were averaged together to compute a letter grade. Factors such as how much an assignment was worth, extra credit, and student behavior were weighed in the academic grade, and all could affect the final grade. More recently, our district has worked as an educational system to analyze how we reach a final course grade and what students need to demonstrate to achieve proficiency on state standards.
In a standards-based grading system, there is focus on learning specific goals with grades more clearly addressing each of the state standards. Grades are based on the most recent evidence of learning. A primary component of standards-based practices is to allow students who may have not performed proficiency the first time to continue learning and reassess to work towards proficiency. SBG is a means of assessing student work based on clearly defined criteria and using specific course rubrics to show that a student has reached proficiency on that standard. It uses processes as a path to critical thinking and understanding, develops meaningful assessments with timely feedback as practice for improvement (not penalty). Students are required to be self-reflective and self-aware, take ownership of their learning, with grades awarded based on level of achievement that students accomplish over the duration of the course.
SBG can look different across each of our district sites. At our elementary schools, a student who demonstrates proficiency may get a grade of “Meets Standard,” while those still working on standards receive grades of “Partially meets standard” or “Does not meet standard.” At the secondary level, a student’s ability to meet standards translates to a traditional letter grade, and our teachers are working to be clear that assessments measure standards.
Obviously, lower scores can provoke anxiety for students and parents, but the intent of SBG is to identify what or how much of a concept a student understands. Retakes for standards that were not well understood or mastered are allowed. The goal is to improve and work towards mastery. SBG was not meant to keep students from obtaining good grades. It is meant to match the earned grade with what the student has mastered. Colleges still require traditional letter grades and transcripts for acceptance, so our high school is working hard on ensuring that the points earned correspond to a fair grade.
In conclusion, SBG holds students accountable for learning standards developed by the state and more adequately and appropriately correlates what a student has mastered to their grades. Our students report cards and transcripts should reflect what students have learned. Hutchinson School District strives for academic excellence utilizing this system as a means of truly preparing students for life and learning beyond our district.