Standards-Based Grading

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

Q: Why standards-based grading?
A: In Grain Valley Schools, we believe a grade should communicate the academic achievement status of students. 

This system of assessment and grading is based upon extensive research and positive results from educators and school districts all over the country.

Q: How does a proficiency-based scale work?
A: The philosophy behind standards-based grading focuses on the collection of multiple pieces of “evidence” of student learning in relation to a specific learning goal. With multiple pieces of evidence, teachers can get a clearer picture of a student’s progression of learning and intervene before a big test or project is completed. Rather than “averaging” individual scores together, students’ scores will be analyzed to determine growth and improvement towards mastery of a specific skill or content.

Therefore, if a student’s score is lower at the beginning of a topic, it does not adversely affect their final grade for the unit. What will determine the final grade for each unit is the progress made and the knowledge gained by the end of the unit.

Q: How are grades determined using a proficiency scale?
A: In standards-based grading, students have the opportunity to prove their proficiency in relation to a specific learning goal. Learning goals are clearly defined, as is the level of mastery to achieve a specific grade. The focus is upon growth in the learning process through multiple attempts and practice before a final grade is recorded. 

Ultimately, students will still receive a letter grade ranging from an A to an F.

Q: Will the use proficiency scales impact a student’s GPA adversely?
A: No. Students will have ample opportunities to achieve an appropriate level of proficiency in their courses. The GPA calculation for high school students remains the same, based on the final letter grade in the course.

Q: Does the use of proficiency scales change the way class ranks, scholarship selections, etc. are

A: No. High school students will still be ranked for the purpose of scholarship selections, college applications, etc. However, our focus is on all students meeting an expected standard as opposed to categorizing students based on one tenth or one hundredth decimal point difference in GPA.

Q: Is it true that it is virtually impossible for a student to earn a “4” (aka straight A)?
A: No. Teachers plan for instruction and assessment with opportunities for students to achieve at all levels of the scale. It may seem more difficult in the standards-based environment because the grade truly has a laser-like focus on the standard. In traditional 100-point grading, factors such as extra credit, attendance, participation, behavior, etc. could skew the communication of true achievement of learning.

Q: How is the final course grade figured?
A: Most courses will have 15 – 20 learning goals for which students are assessed. Each topic is assessed looking at a trend in growth and improvement. Upon completion of a course, it is then appropriate (and only then) to average scores across topics to arrive at a final course grade.

Q: Are grades based only on “big tests” in standards-based grading?
A: No. Grades are based on the “evidence” collected from the teacher over the course of a grading period. Students are given multiple avenues as well as opportunities to show evidence of their learning.

Q: Is homework a part of standards-based grading?
A: Homework or practice work is an important part of the learning process. Homework is not usually assigned a “grade” in standards-based grading, however. Homework is considered as practice to strengthen or reinforce a skill in preparation for the “big game” or test. Much like in sports, some students need more practice than others to master a skill or knowledge. Students need help and support at home to reinforce the idea that practice makes permanent!

Q: How does standards-based grading affect acceptance into college or post-secondary training?
A: Most colleges and universities look at multiple factors for acceptance. Often times, the GPA recorded on a student’s transcript is re-figured by college admissions officers based on the number of rigorous courses taken (ie Advanced Placement, advanced courses). They do this because there is such drastic inconsistency among high schools and teachers on how traditional grades are figured and assigned. Standards-based grading is a philosophy and practice that brings more consistency to reporting student learning.

In standards-based grading students have a much clearer idea of their learning and their individual learning styles, which in turn makes them better prepared to take on the challenges of higher education.
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