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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is standards-based grading?
    In a standards-based system, teachers report what students know and are able to do relative to academic standards. The system includes:

    • The improvement of student achievement in all content areas,
    • The mastery of defined learning targets instead of the accumulation of points,
    • The reporting of student achievement toward meeting learning targets at a given time by reflecting on mounting evidence based on various forms of assessments,
    • A record keeping system that provides teachers with information that allows them to adjust learning practices to meet the needs of students, and
    • A system that encourages student reflection and responsibility.

    What are the purposes of standards-based grading?
    One purpose of standards-based grading is to align grading with the state academic standards as measured by consistent and accurate student achievement data and common criteria for grading. Another purpose is to accurately communicate achievement of learning targets to students, parents and educators. The influence of positive and consistent work habits on student learning is reported separately from the academics.

    How does standards-based grading work?
    Traditional grading averages work that a student has done over a semester with other student characteristics, such as work habits. Standards-based grading removes extraneous factors and focuses solely on a student’s academic achievement and continued mounting evidence that indicates a true assessment of the child’s present attainment of the learning targets.

    How is standards-based grading different?
    The student’s grade more accurately represents the progress toward mastery of standards than traditional grading does. Subject areas are sub-divided into big ideas related to standards and their respective learning targets that students need to learn or master. Each target is assessed. Scores from activities that are provided solely for practice will not be included in the final assessment of the learning target. The influence of positive and consistent work habits on student learning is reported separately from the academics.

    What are the advantages of standards-based grading?
    The learning targets are clearly articulated to the students throughout instruction. Parents can see which learning targets students have mastered and which ones need reteaching and relearning.

    What are the disadvantages of standards-based grading?

    • It’s a change, and change takes time to build understanding for everyone involved.
    • Traditional grading practices are ingrained in the community and they, too, will have to go through the change process.

    What is the role of homework in SBG?
    The purposes for assigning homework include the following:

    • To help students master learning targets.
    • To prepare students to learn new material.
    • To provide extension and application of skills taught in the class to new situations
    • To integrate and apply many different skills to a larger task. Examples of this type can be projects, creative writing, and I-Search papers.

    Homework scores are not usually included in the assessment of standards, unless the assignment is designed to show mastery. The student’s grade will indicate how well he/she has mastered the content, not whether he/she completes assignments. Work ethic related to homework will be reflected separately from the academic grade. How does a standards-based report card improve teaching and learning? Knowing where the students are in their progress toward meeting standards-based learning targets is crucial for planning and carrying out classroom instruction. Teachers teach to the needs of their students. The new grading system is designed to give teachers more information about the student’s progress in meeting the level of proficiency required by each standard. In addition, teachers share the standards with students and parents, helping them to better understand the learning that needs to take place.

    Why does SBG use most recent assessments vs. averaging?
    Every student starts a grading period with a certain amount of background knowledge, some accurate and some not, related to a topic/learning target. Through assessments during the grading period, teachers are able to determine students’ levels of achievement of the learning targets. Since the goal is to document each student’s level of achievement based on learning targets, averaging all scores throughout the marking period dilutes the information, underestimates the students’ ending performance, and corrupts the determination of whether or not the student has achieved the targets.

    How do teachers give one standards-based grade when there are multiple standards per quarter?
    A student’s performance will be reported for each learning target or big idea taught. Summative grades will be determined from evaluating a body of evidence based on the learning targets taught that quarter. At all levels, a need for additional support or intervention can be noted through comments on the report card or through direct contact with the parent.

    How does SBG prepare students for college?
    The components of standards-based grading have the capacity to enhance achievement of learning targets and increase students’ understanding of the specific skills, strategies, knowledge and processes to succeed through the use of well-articulated targets and formative assessment. Students are better able to learn self-advocacy and do the necessary work to achieve the learning target prior to summative assessments. Students are able to take increased ownership of their learning.

    Doesn’t SBG lead to grade inflation?
    If a grade truly represents the level of mastery of standards, the grades students have earned represent the level of their understanding of the course material. It should provide an accurate picture of the student’s performance, neither inflated nor deflated.

    Have schools that use standards-based grading experienced significant increases in achievement?
    Research on standards-based grading shows overwhelmingly that students learn their subjects better and perform better in later education levels such as college when standards-based grading is implemented with fidelity both for instruction and assessment.

    If students are allowed to retest, why will they try the first time?

    • Prior to an additional chance for assessment, evidence of “correctives” should be indicated. Significant remediation should occur between the first attempt and the re-assessment.
    • The additional opportunities to show evidence of achievement of learning targets should be presented in an alternative form.
    • The goal is to teach students how to best prepare for summative assessments.

    Most students learn quickly that it takes less work to do it right the first time.

    How will “incompletes” be handled in the high school?
    If we use standards-based grading to report a student’s progress toward the achievement of a standard, it is an on-going process. For management reasons, we need to establish deadlines by which that progress needs to be reported. However, if a student is still progressing toward the standard at such a time when a report is needed, such as report card time, an incomplete may be given. If, two weeks after that deadline has passed, the student hasn’t demonstrated his full potential on the standard (through reteaching and correctives), the grade should be recorded based on the preponderance of the evidence that the teacher has, or continue as an incomplete if the student’s performance is still progressing. The principal should be consulted and parents informed in extreme cases.

    How will parents be educated to prepare for this change?
    Parents are encouraged to ask individual teachers or building principals questions regarding grading practices at specific levels.

    Is SBG more work for teachers?
    In the first year of implementation, perhaps, but it is a system designed to be fair to students and increase achievement, so it’s worth the time. However, it will save time in the future. Rather than having to assign and grade a predetermined number of assignments, teachers will need to gather only the evidence required to demonstrate a student’s level of proficiency. Teachers and students use information specific to learning targets to plan instruction designed for individual student needs. Students clearly understand the target, their needs, and the course of action to achieve the target. Once students are familiar with the system, they work with the teacher to reach for the proficient and/or advanced scores. This partnership makes teaching and assessing more efficient.

    Read "The Pros and Cons Against Standards-base Testing" (pdf)

    Read "A Repair Kit for Grading" (pdf)

    Read "Seven Reasons for Standard Base Grading" (pdf)

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    Seattle, WA 98117
    Main: 206-252-1200
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    Principal: Sue Kleitsch
    skleitsch@seattleschools.org
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    School Admin: Miste Chandler 
    michandler@seattleschools.org