Standards-based grading provides more information than letter grades

In recent years, curriculums in schools around the world have begun to change, adjusting from just letter grades and percentages to standard-based grading. 

Standards-based grading is where a subject is broken down into smaller learning targets. Throughout the semester, student learning on each topic is recorded, and teachers track that progress and give feedback and help when needed. The main point for standard-based grading is to give information to students about why they receive each grade, and the breakdown of how they did on each standard rather than a receiving a vague letter with no explanation.

In the middle school, many teachers believe standards-based grading has had a big impact on student learning. For eighth-grade teacher Ms.Jessica Ganet, it is not the first school she has worked at that has switched to standard-based grading. “This is my fourth school with standards-based grading, my third school with standards-based recording, and my third school that has been in the process of rolling out the standards,” Ms. Ganet said. 

Ms. Ganet explained  that while each school has been slightly different, replacing grades with standards has had a positive impact on the ways that a student now approaches their school work. “It really changes the conversation,” she said  “You go from talking about ‘how can I get my grade up?’ to ‘can you help me work on this standard?’” 

Eighth grade teacher Ms. Penny Giehl agreed. “I’m really excited for when that conversation changes to ‘how do I improve?’ or ‘you know, I’m really struggling with this standard; can you help me get there?’” 

Assistant principal Katie Shefren explained the process. The standards help the students understand what they need to work on, instead of the students being left clueless on how they could do better.  

Right now, the seventh and eighth grades have both grades and standards, while the fifth and sixth graders have grades fully eliminated from their report card. 

For future seventh and eighth-grade report cards however, it is very undecided. Ms. Shefren said, “It’s definitely a conflicted area. On one hand we really like the idea of having no grades. While on the other hand, we have to get the students ready for high school, and in the high school, there are grades and we need to take that into consideration.”

On the student side of things, eighth-grader Chloe Dubin thinks that grades should not be eliminated completely. “They prepare you for high school, and while standards are good for the actual learning, students need to be prepared for the way things are in high school, college, and beyond.” 

Dubin said that while having a way to track your progress is useful, and standards help relieve a lot of stress and will in the end have a more positive impact in the middle school, there also comes a time where a student needs to see where they are in the same way that will be used for the rest of one’s education. 

Overall though, students, teachers, and administrators believe the new way of reporting will be very beneficial. “I believe that the new standards-based grading will have a really positive long-term impact on our middle school community,” said Ms. Shefren. 

The main point of standard-based grading is to give information to students on why they received that grade. Standards are more specific and detail learning targets that the teachers want the students to meet. Then, the students understand more on what they need to work on in the future. (Image from Middle School Handbook)

About Ella Podurgiel ('23)

Features Editor (2018-19)

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