• SBG Q&A:

    Standards are statements about what students should know and be able to do within each content area, at each grade level. This curriculum is identified in the Missouri Learning Standards which can be found online HERE.

    SBG Consistency Guidelines: 

    The following guidelines serve as a tool for ensuring SBG consistency across the district: 

    • The comments section of the grade card should be filled out on every student each quarter and provide specific information to help the student and parent understand the student’s strengths and weaknesses.
    • Regular education, special education, reading, and math teachers should have ongoing collaboration on SBG decisions of students that are shared.
    • All standards scored on grade cards should represent where we expect students by the end of each quarter.
    • Students reading below grade level yet have an understanding of the standard should be given a 2 until they are reading on grade level.
    • All SPED students (MAP A, resource) will receive a report card.
    • MAP A students will receive a “1” in all academic areas so that reporting of standards-based grades is consistent.  In the comments section, the following statement should be included: “Progressing toward grade level curriculum.  See progress notes.”  However, the process goals (behaviors) can reflect a 1, 2, or 3.

    Tips for explaining SBG to parents 

    Explaining standards-based grading to parents may be a challenge, especially since our students’ parents are used to traditional grading methods. When explaining standards based grades to parents, it is important to first explain the purpose of grades and the grade card - communication. You are simply informing them how their child is progressing compared to the specific grade level standards. It will also be helpful to explain what a 1, 2 and 3 mean.

    Some find it helpful to see how the 100 point scale can devastate a grade based on averages.  If a student starts poorly and eventually masters a concept, a “C” average does not represent his or her current understanding of that standard.  When parents understand that standards based grades are not based on averages or percentages, they begin to let go of the traditional grading systems like the letter grade system. It is important to have consistent terminology among teachers, students and parents. Using the terms “independent” and “consistent” will help develop a common vocabulary to get all stakeholders on the same page regarding student performance.

    It is also beneficial to have student work samples readily available for parents to review. Understanding the types of tasks and the level to which students are expected to work will help parents see how their child’s performance fits into the big picture. Anecdotal notes and records are an important part of the conference process as they can help teachers remember specific examples of student performance. 

    Many parents will say that letter grades are a motivator.  There is some research to support that notion.  Good grades motivate high performing students to a small degree.  Bad grades don’t motivate anyone (Vatterott, 2007). We have moved to SBG so that our students place higher value on learning instead of “playing the game of school to get a letter grade.” Grades should not be a method of coercion but a way to communicate academic and behavioral progress…an authentic reflection of learning.  

    How is SBG different than traditional grading? 

    Traditionally, student performance for a quarter was based on averaging scores from the entire quarter.  Early scores could be averaged together with later-quarter performance in which a student demonstrated proficient performance.  Typically, student work habits affected the overall grade such as incomplete or missing homework or participation points being averaged into the overall grade. 

    Standards-based grading communicates how a student is doing on a set of performance goals.  It takes into consideration consistent performance as well as the most recent data collected and separates behavior and work habits.


    Traditional Grading

    Standards-Based Grading

    Connected to assessment methods

    Directly connected to standards



    Achievement, effort, attitude, and behavior all factors

    Achievement is the only factor

    Every grade recorded with minimal support for re-assessment

    Most recent assessment information used

    Averaging all grades

    Various forms of data collected

    Variations of assessment quality

    Quality assessments aligned to standards

    Teacher-only involvement in grading assessment

    Involvement of student in assessment


    How will this affect special education students? 

    Students who are currently in Special Education (SPED) will continue to work on IEP goals just as they have in the past.  If a student is in the SPED room for an entire subject, the SPED teacher will assess and report student progress through progress goals.  However, if a student is not in the SPED room for the entire subject, the SPED teacher and regular education teacher will collaborate and report student progress.

    Why aren't all of the standards listed on the grade card? 

    The purpose of the standards-based report card is to communicate with parents and students about the progress of the student.  Teachers collect evidence on specific grade-level standards and use that evidence to make a decision about a grade to report.  Although the teacher is collecting evidence on the standards, reporting every single standard at each grade level would most likely be overwhelming to parents and teachers.  For example, in third grade, there are over 40 standards in ELA alone. Many of the standards are not taught in isolation, so listing them separately is not necessary. 

    How will decisions about promotion be made? 

    Decisions about promotion will be based on a consensus about what is best for each student individually.  If there are questions about whether a student should be promoted, the school and parents will review all the evidence to decide if the student is ready for the next grade level.  

    How is SBG teaching students reponsibility and accountability for the real world?

    "In a standards-based system, the emphasis is on learning. When a student doesn’t do the work, the inherent consequence is that he or she doesn’t learn the content or practicing the skill.  When we do not allow a student to turn in late work or re-do work, we deny that student the opportunity to grow character traits that are vital to student achievement, such as perseverance and persistence.

    If a teacher doesn’t accept late work, the teacher sends the message that the assignment had little educational value. It’s as if teacher is saying, 'Hey, it’s okay if you don’t do the work, and it’s okay if you don’t learn the content or skill.'  As professional educators working to prepare students to successfully navigate the 21st century world, we can no longer accept these messages.

    Granting a reduced grade or zero doesn’t teach responsibility to students who are not intrinsically motivated. It actually allows the student to avoid the accountability of demonstrating what he or she has learned, and it teaches them to shrug off important responsibilities." Ken O'Connor

    Meaningful feedback

    A special emphasis should also be placed on teachers giving meaningful and timely feedback to students. This will help the student focus their improvement efforts. Instead of saying, “Good job” or “You can do better” try giving students specific points to focus on. 

    For example:

    “I noticed you lined up all the decimal points in these numbers before adding them. Way to go!”

    “You’re off to a great start with this writing piece. Can you explain what you’re trying to say here? I don’t quite understand.”

    “You have written a varied detailed observation for this science experiment. What scientific vocabulary can you include to clearly describe your thinking?”

    Feedback does not always have to be formal. Feedback can be written notes on a test, a short talking point during a literature circle discussion, verbalized during a one-on-one reading conference, or even comments on a shared Google Document. 

    What does a 3-2-1 mean in standards-based grading? 

    When defining levels of achievement, it is important to define these in a way that all stakeholders, especially the student, can understand. Nixa Public Schools has chosen to use achievement levels of 1, 2 and 3 to describe how students perform.

    A “3” describes a student who is meeting the academic goal consistently and independently. This student needs little to no help from the teacher, depending on the wording of the standard, and their performance is generally consistent from learning experience to learning experience. Keep in mind a “3” does not indicate perfection. A “3” student will make mistakes; however, this student may be able to self-monitor his or her comprehension and fix errors independently when they are pointed out.

    A “2” describes a student who needs teacher support to meet the standard. This student may have a general grasp of what the skill or concept requires them to do, but they may need teacher support to maintain consistent performance. 

    A “1” describes a student who is not meeting the grade level standard, even with teacher support. A student receiving a “1” may need direct instruction or one-on-one supports to gain any mastery at all.

    A score of “0” has intentionally been left off of the Nixa Public Schools grade card. A “0” implies a child knows nothing. At any level, a child should be able to work through a problem with heavy teacher support which would fall under the score of “1.” Therefore, the only way to earn a “0” is to not complete the work. However, not completing work falls under the process skill category.

    When in doubt, always refer back to these scoring parameters.


    1 represents

    Need more help.  I am still unsure about the standard.  I need further assistance from my teacher to gain a better understanding.

    2 represents

    Almost there. I can explain the standard with a little evidence, but sometimes need more practice or extra help from my teacher.

    3 represents

    I get it!  I can explain the standard with evidence and confidence.  I can show what I know without my teacher’s help consistently.


    1 represents

    I don’t get it.  I need help.

    2 represents

    I’ve almost got it.  I need more practice.

    3 represents

    I GET IT!  I can teach someone else.

    What kind of evidence should I collect?  How much evidence is enough evidence? 

    This is a judgment call for you, the teacher. It’s always good to have a few work samples on hand if a parent decides to question a grade or if they have concerns about a particular skill their child is working on. Is it necessary to keep every single worksample from every single student? Absolutely not!

    Examples of evidence might include:

    Copies of select formative and/or summative assessments

    Writing pieces or journal entries

    Select class work

    Anecdotal or running records


    The most important thing to remember when collecting evidence to explain or justify a particular grade is to select pieces where students have had ample time to practice and have tried to use the skill proficiently. What is more, you can collect a piece of evidence as a pre-assessment, then use another piece of evidence as a post-test to show growth between the two collections.

    For additional information about data collection, refer to your grade level [Assessment] Instructional Practices Guide.

    What is the role of teacher judgment in grading?

    There is no way to completely eliminate teacher objectivity from any grading or assessment practice, but Nixa Public Schools wants to be as consistent as possible. With this in mind, the district has separated the academic standards as indicated in the Missouri Learning Standards from process standards such as responsibility, respect, effort given, and time management. This separation allows teachers to report on their students’ work ethic and still give accurate information in regard to their progress toward a specific goal. Professional judgment does play a significant role in grade determination. The bottom line is that teachers know their students and can advocate for their ability or communicate an inability to perform against established learning standards.

    Should I average anything?

    The beauty of standards-based grading is that you do not have to average anything. When grades are averaged, students are punished for not understanding a concept at the beginning of the unit. Because all students learn at different paces, assessment and grading are all about demonstrating growth over time against one standard or a small group of similar standards. In the past, grade averaging has taken pieces of evidence over a span of a quarter or semester, and has included many unrelated standards. To make feedback more efficient, it is better to With this in mind, no, it is not necessary to average a student’s scores.

    What is central tendency?

    While averaging scores using the arithmetic mean is not suggested, it is necessary to look at measures of central tendency to determine student performance. These measures can be the mode or the median of a set of grades. The mode considers which numbers appears most frequently while the median addresses which number appears in the middle of the set when all numbers are placed in order. Teachers are able to determine which central tendency they will use to assign grades and they know each child’s strengths and weaknesses. 

    Though averaging, or finding the mean, has been used in the past, it is not the most effective way to determine student achievement. Consider a student who has received the following grades throughout a unit: 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 3, 3, 3. If the scores are averaged, the mean is 2.2. However, if a teacher chooses to look at the median and mode, the student would receive a 3. Upon looking at the data, it is obvious that the student has demonstrated an understanding of the standard even though he or she did not begin the unit with this ability. Using measures of central tendency help teachers interpret data in a more effective way than simply averaging grades.

    15 Fixes for Broken Grades 

    1. Separate student behaviors or process standards from academic learning standards.
    2. Don’t penalize students for “late” work. Provide support instead.
    3. Don’t give opportunities for extra credit or bonus work. Give students another opportunity to demonstrate mastery or a higher level of achievement.
    4. Don’t punish for academic dishonesty. Provide other consequences and reassess.
    5. Don’t consider absences in grade determination. Report that separately.
    6. Don’t include group scores in grades. Consider each student’s individual achievement.
    7. Don’t summarize learning into a single grade. Organize and report grades by standard or learning goal.
    8. Don’t use inappropriate or unclear learning goals. Provide clear descriptions of achievement expectations.
    9. Don’t compare students grades against other students’ grades. Compare each student’s achievement to preset standards.
    10. Don’t use poorly constructed assessments. Rely on valid, quality assessments.
    11. Don’t rely on a mean score. Use other methods of central tendency and/or use professional judgment.
    12. Don’t use zeros in grade determination. If a student is missing work, teachers can use an “I” for incomplete or an “IE” for insufficient evidence.
    13. Don’t use information from formative assessments and/or practice to determine grades. Use only summative evidence.
    14. Don’t summarize evidence accumulated over time. Emphasize most recent achievement.
    15. Don’t leave students out of the grading process. Involve students in assessment, reflection, and grading.

    Importance of student self-assessment


    When considering the purpose for grades, independent student self-assessment is the end goal of the grading process. As expectations for achievement in each standard are learned by students, they should begin to view their own work and thinking and judge where it belongs. This opens up a new line of communication between students and teachers, as well as students and parents. Instead of calculating their grades using algorithms, students will reflect on the work and progress they have made throughout a unit on a specific standard or group of related standards.