Exploring The Pros And Cons Of Standards-Based Grading Systems

Education is constantly evolving, and new assessment methods are often introduced to measure student performance better. One such system that has been gaining traction in recent years is standards-based grading (SBG).

This type of grading focuses on assessing a student’s mastery of specific learning targets and skills rather than assigning an overall letter grade based on their course performance.

This article will explore the pros and cons associated with SBG systems and discuss how it differs from traditional grading approaches.

As a bonus, at the end of this article you will find a link that will give you FREE access to one Module 1 of our Standards-Based Grading: How to Implemenent a Meaningful Grading System online course.

How Does Standards-Based Grading Differ From Traditional Grading Systems?

Traditional grading systems assign letter grades based on test scores, class participation, and other factors. These letter grades can then be used to calculate a student’s overall grade point average (GPA).

This approach has been the standard for many years, but it does not accurately assess each student’s mastery of specific skills or learning targets.

On the other hand, Standards-Based Grading (SBG) measures students’ proficiency on particular skills rather than their overall performance in a course. Instead of assigning letter grades, teachers use rubrics to assess how well students understand and demonstrate specific skills or standards.

Each skill is given its own rating that falls into one of four categories: Emerging (1), Developing (2), Proficient (3), or Advanced (4).

By using this system, teachers are able to more accurately measure each student’s progress toward mastering certain concepts and materials.

Research on the Impact of Standards-Based Grading

Research has shown that Standards-Based Grading can have a positive impact on student performance.

Studies have indicated that using this approach can lead to improved achievement, increased engagement in learning, and a better classroom climate.

Some studies have also shown that using a StandardsBased approach can encourage academic growth in problem-solving or critical thinking skills.

This is because each standard provides a clear path for success and encourages students to focus on mastering the material instead of simply passing the class with a good grade.

Ultimately, these studies suggest that Standards-Based Grading can be beneficial for teachers and students alike when implemented correctly.

Understanding the Proficiency Scale for Standards-Based Grading

Standards-Based Grading relies on the use of a proficiency scale to measure student progress. This scale consists of four levels: Emerging (1), Developing (2), Proficient (3), and Advanced (4). Each level indicates the degree to which a student has mastered a particular standard or skill.

For example, if a student is given an Emerging rating for a particular standard, it means that they have only just begun to understand the material, need support to understand it, and will need additional practice to master it.

On the other hand, if they receive an Advanced rating, then this shows that they are well-versed in the subject matter, can demonstrate mastery of certain concepts or skills related to it, and show in-depth understanding of what is expected for that standard.

Pros and Cons of Standard-Based Grading:

Pros of Standard-Based Grading include:

  • Increased accuracy in assessing student performance
  • Greater focus on specific skills and standards
  • More consistent feedback
  • Tailored instruction which allows students to better understand what they need improvement upon
  • Increased motivation as students are able to track progress against predetermined proficiency scales instead of arbitrary letter grades
  • Improved overall engagement from both students and teachers.

Cons of Standard-Based Grading include: (Please note we believe these cons are worth the benefits of implementing SBG.)

  • An increase in workload for teachers in the beginning who must prioritize standards, create rubrics, and realign assessments. This takes time, but is best done in professional development days so as not to add more to teachers’ plates.
  • Transitioning away from a traditional system can be challenging for both staff members responsible for implementing SBG, as well as parents who must adjust their expectations accordingly
  • A transition for parents who will need support in trying to interpret this new type of assessment system since letter grades are no longer used exclusively in all classes or schools that adopt SBG policies
  • The overall complexity increases due the addition of proficiency scales rather than simply assigning letter grades based on tests scores alone
  • The investment to hire a Standards-Based Grading trainer to support and walk-thorugh the steps with teachers os they feel fully supported.

When Standard-Based Goes Right in Classrooms: Examples

Our professional development team at Strobel Education has implemented SBG in hundreds of schools While we know it can be a lot of work in the beginning, with time, teachers and students ease into a system that increases achievement and informs instruction.

When Standards-Based Grading is implemented correctly, it can have a positive impact on student performance and overall classroom climate.

For example, one study found that using this approach in middle school math classes resulted in improved scores on state assessment tests and increased engagement during class time.

Another study showed that students who were assessed with proficiency scales instead of traditional letter grades had higher levels of motivation to complete assignments and felt less stress when preparing for tests.

This is because they are able to track their progress more accurately using these scales rather than relying solely on arbitrary letter grades.

Robert Marzano states, “On average, the practice of having students track their own progress was associated with a 32 percentile point gain in their achievement.”

Teachers also benefit from using proficiency scales when assessing student progress. These scales allow teachers to objectively measure each student’s performance on specific standards while providing additional resources as needed.

By focusing on skill development rather than arbitrary letter grades, teachers are better equipped to tailor instruction and help their students succeed academically.

What Parents Need To Know About Standard-Based Grading For Their Children

Standards-Based Grading is a relatively new system of assessment, so it can be difficult for parents to understand this approach. It is important for them to be aware that letter grades are no longer the only measure of student performance and that proficiency scales are now used as well.

In addition, parents should strive to support their children in understanding the expectations associated with each standard or skill they are learning.

Parents should also encourage their children to take advantage of feedback and resources provided by their teacher. Discussing expectations with the teacher can provide valuable insight into how best to support your child’s growth academically.

Lastly, it is important for parents to be open-minded about this new system as it may take some time for them, as well as their children, to adjust from the traditional letter grade system they are used to seeing in report cards or transcripts.

Conclusion & Next Steps

Standards-Based Grading is an assessment approach that has become increasingly popular in recent years. This system focuses on measuring a student’s mastery of particular skills or learning targets rather than their overall performance within a course.

It can benefit both teachers and students as it allows for a more accurate measurement of progress and provides tailored instruction to help each student reach the expected proficiency level.

Despite the potential benefits associated with SBG systems, there are also some challenges that must be considered, such as time for teachers outside of their classroom to do the work, or confusion from parents who may struggle to interpret this new type of assessment.

At Strobel Education LLC, we believe that all educators should have access to comprehensive resources to help them make informed decisions about using Standards-Based Grading systems. We are committed to providing teachers with the tools and support they need for the successful implementation of this type of assessment strategy in their classrooms.

Our team works with schools across the country supporting and coaching teachers in the implementation of Standards-Based Grading. A good place to start is to begin with Module 1 of our Standards-Based online course. The first module is free and you can register here.

Or you can schedule an onsite professional development day on Standards-Based Grading: How to Implement a Meaningful Grading System that Improves Student Success.

You can contact us at support@strobeleducation.com for more information.

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