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Standards Based Grading

Standards Based Grading Q&A


What are standards?

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.


How is SBG different than what we're currently doing?

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 responsibility 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 [natural] 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 [self]-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


How will this motivate and challenge students? 

The goal of SBG is for students to take ownership of their learning.  The desire to learn becomes the motivator instead of the desire for a grade.  Traditional grading can make school about points and percentages…not learning. That kind of system creates fear for many students and separates them from the curriculum and from the teaching. (O’Connor, 2014; Guskey 2010) 

It is important for teachers to challenge all students to achieve at the highest possible level and when students excel, this should be acknowledged through other communication than report cards and grades.  For example, the teacher may talk to the student and/or parents, send an email, make a phone call, or note in the larger comments section on the report card.