Question Detail

Opinions on Standards-Based Grading

Apr 6, 2013 12:37pm

Recently, one of the middle schools in our district went to Standards-Based Grading, which has caused much debate amongst the math teachers in our district. While I can philosophically see SOME benefits in terms of being more specific and descriptive about which skills are mastered, teachers are concerned with how the district executes this philosophy.

Currently, students can theoretically make up any standard from throughout the year, no matter how far back. There is no requirement for work to be done before a reassessment is granted, and there is no consequence gradewise for mastering the standard later versus doing it correctly the first time.

Teachers report that it has caused a huge increase in work (making new problems, managing all the kids making up all different tasks), and they worry that students may be tempted to slack off instead of working hard the first time because they know that they can always just reassess.

So what are people's thoughts on the issue?

  • Math
  • 6-12
  • Assessment


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    • Apr 8, 2013 7:22pm


      I'm in the same boat as Lauren, in that I've never used standards-based grading, but it does sound like a lot of work. I don't understand how the standards-based approach is synonymous with the lack of accountability. I could definitely see how standards-based grading could be beneficial when grading assignment as they are assigned. If there are 4 different quarters, why can't the teachers grade each assignment based on standards and then if students aren't proficient, parents can see growth throughout the year. Without that, parents aren't really getting a lot of information about their child's progress. That coupled with the increased work load for teachers, it sounds like some negotiation may be beneficial for everyone. Nothing is ever set in stone. Teacher's voices need to be heard.

      Good luck!

      • Apr 6, 2013 4:22pm

        Hi Jeff,
        Well, I have never taught at a school that has done grading like that. My first instinct is no thanks! It does sound like a lot of work for teachers and a lot to keep track of. It also does not teach students about accountability or prepare them well for their future academic success at college, for example, where grading like that will not be an option. I think there are other ways that we can tackle the teaching and learning of standards that does not have to be grade based. Thoughtful and engaging lesson plans is how I approach this task. I look forward to hearing other people's thoughts on this as well.

        • Apr 9, 2013 7:08pm

          Again, I think that the execution of the philosophy is the biggest issue. If it were truly just about using standards-based grading to inform more specifically and improve learning, it would be a pain in the butt to do more work, but the argument to support it would hold more weight.

          But it seems in practice to be more about improving grades for students. You would think this would equate to better learning, but many are convinced that the opposite is true - that without the necessity to do it right the first time, students' internal motivation will be lessened.

          They don't have it in the HS where I teach, I can only base my comments on what I hear teachers and STUDENTS say about the issue. I teach honors courses, and I know some of my students are concerned about not being able to "separate themselves" from average students as they consider future college prospects.

          • Apr 9, 2013 7:13pm

            Oh, and I will say that it turns out that some of the middle school teachers do have them do corrections and write a written reflection prior to a reassessment, so it's not as bad as I originally thought.

            I wonder how much negotiation was allowed in setting the policy about how the reassessment piece would be allowed. As I said, only one of three middle schools uses Standards-Based grading, so it's not like it's a "district policy". I'll have to find out more. I'll be attending a seminar on it in June.

            • Apr 11, 2013 6:06pm

              My high school doesn't mandate it, but we are hoping to move in that direction and are starting a slow rollout. This year's steps were to a) not give 0s (so that there is no major test or project that can singly kill your grade--we are supposed to give 40's instead) and b) allow missing work. They left it up to us what timeline the missing work can be done on. Mine is typically until each progress report/report card.

              I usually make one retake for an assignment and I require my students to fill out a form explaining what went wrong and what they did to better prepare this time. They also have to attach the original assessment and their corrections. (I didn't do this at first, and kids wanted to retake when they were still totally unprepared).

              On the whole, its been pretty good, but I'm just starting out. There are some great blog entries out there from people who are doing it too. Here are a couple:

              • Feb 26, 2014 11:03am

                "...and there is no consequence gradewise for mastering the standard later versus doing it correctly the first time."

                So, as educators, we actively seek to penalize those who learn slowly?

                Are we not concerned with any learning that takes place over time?

                Does any research refute the claim that "although learners follow the same sequence of learning, that they progress at different times?"
                - EVERY Educational Psychology book written in the last few decades I can think of.

                • Sep 4, 2015 7:44am

                  This is a very interesting topic as our school district is also heading in this direction. My concern is in terms of reporting. How would this look in a report card and how would an admissions office make interpretations of these in a university or college?