When my school district first adopted standards-based grading, I didn’t know what to expect. No more percentages? How would we explain it to parents? How would I know if a student mastered a standard? These were all questions that flooded my mind. Now, three years later, I think I’ve finally figured out standards-based grading.
Standards-Based Grading Basics
Standards-based grading gets rid of the traditional percentages and letter grades on assignments and report cards. Instead, there is a grading scale.
4 – Exceeding Academic Standards
3 – Meeting Academic Standards
2 – Progressing Well Toward Academic Standards
1 – Not Meeting Academic Standards at This Time
Makes sense, right? Until report card time comes. . .
What exactly is the difference between a 1 and a 2? What does a 4 look like? The first year I had to fill out a standards-based report card, I just sat there staring at it for the first 10 minutes. I knew what my students were able to do, but I didn’t know which number to use to show it.
Plus, I had to wrap my head around the fact that the standards are goals for the end of the year. On our previous report card, we just checked off the skills students were able to do at the end of the quarter. The higher grades gave letter grades. Now all of that was gone, and we were assigning a number to each standard.
There are two different ways school districts use the grading scale on report cards.
My school district doesn’t allow 3’s until the entire standard has been taught, and the students have reached the end of grade level expectations. For example, third graders are expected to be at a reading level P at the end of the year. They are only allowed to be a 3 in reading skills once they achieve that level. Usually, that’s in 4th quarter, so the entire rest of the year they are 1’s and 2’s.
My friend’s school district gives 3’s if the student is meeting the part of the standard that has been taught at the end of the quarter. For example, if students have demonstrated mastery of identifying the main idea of a passage at the end of first quarter, they can receive a 3. However, if they aren’t able to identify the main idea in more challenging passages later in the year, they can move back to a 2.
Parents and Standards-Based Grading
One of the hardest parts of standards-based grading was explaining it to parents. The numbers don’t mean nearly as much to parents as a percentage or letter grade. At conferences, we explained to the parents that it’s okay to see 1’s and 2’s on the report card until 4th quarter.
The main complaint we’ve received from parents is that the numbers don’t give them information about how their children are doing at that time. Since most of the students’ report cards are all 2’s for 2nd and 3rd quarter, the parents don’t know what to work on with their children.
That’s why I created some standards-based assessments to help with report cards and to share with parents.
The first year we used standards-based report cards, I felt like I was just guessing numbers. No one earned a 4, because I wasn’t sure what “above grade level” meant.
The following year, I started creating standards-based assessments that matched perfectly with the report cards. I looked at each 3rd grade standard. Then, I looked at the first, second, and fourth grade standards to see what students were expected to do before and after 3rd grade.
For reading, I wrote passages and created 4 questions based on the first through fourth grade standards. The assessments are scored out of 4 points, and they match perfectly with the report card. Now, all I have to do is transfer the number when the end of the quarter comes.
Find these passages in the Teach Without Tears Teachers Pay Teachers Store.
For most of the math assessments, I made a few questions at each level. That way, if the students made a careless error they wouldn’t be bumped down a number. I’m able to get a good picture of what the students are able to do by looking at these assessments.
Click to purchase the 3rd Grade Math Standard Assessments.
Tracking Student Progress
The last problem I ran into was keeping data on which standards each student mastered and which ones they still needed to practice. I also wanted the students to know what they were doing well and what they should continue trying to master.
As a result, I created Digital Badges. They match the little characters at the top of the assessments, and when students score a 3 or 4, they earn the character. Each student has a Google Doc where I add the badges.
I also display the characters with the standards around the room, so students know what they earned a badge for or what they should keep practicing.
Find out more about Digital Badging and how I use in in my classroom.
Mastering Standards-Based Grading
I think I would finally receive a 3 for mastering how standards-based grading works. I love being organized and having data to show parents. The reading and math assessments my students complete come with me to parent-teacher conferences. The parents love seeing the specific questions their children are able to answer and the types of questions they should practice at home.
I went from dreading doing report cards to blasting through them easily. I still don’t love everything about standards-based grading, but completing the report cards doesn’t cause me nearly as much stress as it did three years ago.
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What Do You Think?
What questions do you have about standards-based report cards?
Let me know in the comments below.
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