Switching to Standards-Based Grading & Report Cards

What is Standards-Based Grading?

Firstly, we need to talk about what Standards-Based Grading is. Standards-Based Grading is an intentional assessment of how students perform specific skills. So, instead of giving students an “overall grade,” students will be be “graded” on each individual standard. For example, a report card with standards-based grades will list the grade-level or content area’s required skills. Next to each skill, there will be an assessment or level of the student’s mastery of that skill. It is actually much more simple than it first seems.

What Sort of Scales Might You See?

So, what might Standard-Based Grading look like? It will likely be a scale of some sort that measures a student’s mastery of each standard. Some schools use a numerical scale, typically 1-4, that allows teachers to measure how competently their students are able to perform a skill. In the example above, you can see that a 1 on the scale shows that a student does not have mastery of a skill. They cannot demonstrate understanding of a target, even with assistance. Whereas, a 4 on that scale shows that a student exceeds mastery, performing advanced levels of the target.

  • 4: Advanced- Student exceeds expectations for the target.
  • 3: Mastery, Proficient- Student meets expectations for the target.
  • 2: Needs Improvement, Basic or Partial Mastery- Student demonstrates partial understanding or can perform the task with assistance.
  • 1: No Mastery, Beginning- Student cannot demonstrate understanding of target or perform the task, even with assistance.

Another version of a Standards-Based Grading scale will look like the picture on the right. This simple, 3 level scale, will show if a student doesn’t meet, meets, or exceeds the expectations for a specific standard.

  • E: Exceeds Expectations
  • S: Satisfactory
  • NI: Needs Improvement

The Perks of Standards-Based

Learn how to switch to standards-based grading and report cards. This will take all of their grade level standards and give them a scale of understanding. This will help ensure students have mastered all grade level standards.

There are many benefits to using Standards-Base Grading over traditional grading systems. The assessment of your students is completely intentional. It is a focused way for you to track your students’ progress. This will help in whole- and small-group planning to provide targeted instruction, which will help your students reach their highest potential.  

Additionally, this type of grading will allow you to measure specific skills. Parents will be able to track their child’s progress, knowing what specific tools they need to build upon. This is so much better than seeing your child come home with an A, B, C, D, or F; telling you absolutely nothing about your students’ skillset in a content area.

Standards-Based Grading is written in student-friendly language, which connected to their daily targets. Most students already use “I can” statements, which give them ownership over the skills and mastery.

Lastly, it is going to help you easily track what you’ve taught, what you still need to teach and what you need to revisit.

What Changes You May Need to Make

There may not be many changes to make if you’re moving to Standards-Based Grading. You might be able to use the same instructions style and assessments that you’ve always used. However, if you aren’t using pieces from the list below, you may need to adjust a few elements so that you can make the switch!

  • Standards-Based Mini-Lessons
  • Skill-Specific Application or Activity
  • Skill-Specific Exit Slips or Formative Assessments
  • Standard/Skill-Specific Summative Assessments
  • Small-Group Activities that build & assess unit skills
  • A Form or Report Card that can track student mastery for each standard

Many of you likely read that list and thought, “OH! I already structure my instruction in this way!” So, you’re to do list will just include a new type of report card or grading sheet. For those of you who need to make these additions or changes to your instruction, do so at your own pace. It is not essential for you to rebuild your teaching in a day. Simply be cognizant in your planning with the goal to move toward skill-specific instruction and assessment.

Want a free pacing guide that can help you squeeze in every single ELA standard?

If you teach Kindergarten to Fourth Grade, you can grab this free ELA Pacing Guide to help you track your standards. These pacing guides plan a year’s worth of ELA curriculum and instruction with time to include every, single ELA standard! When you sign up for my email-list, you will receive a zipped file that has each of the grade-level pacing guides. Simply download the one you’d like!

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