Frequently Asked Questions

Standards-Based Grading

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q. My child is a high achiever.  Doesn’t this grading system seem to encourage those students who are not high achievers (or even below average) to succeed and get the same grades as students who are higher learners?

Q. Is standards-based grading preparing students for their futures?  How are they supposed to learn responsibility if they do not have to turn things in on time and are allowed to retake tests?  

Q. My child works very hard to get "A" and "B" grades  On the other hand, the students who don't work as hard - or hard at all - will be "rewarded" by being "allowed" to re-take tests and hand in homework late without any consequences (as long as it's handed in before the end of the unit or term).  How is this fair?

Q. Is it right for students to potentially end up with the same grades regardless of whether they took a test once or three times?

Q. I’m worried that students won’t learn to respect deadlines.  How are they going to respect authority and be ready to meet deadlines in high school?

Q. What benefits do high achievers get with standards-based grading?

Q. My child was so proud to be an honor roll student. With standards-based grading won’t everyone be an honor roll student?

Q. Students will be going to go to high schools where grading doesn’t work like this.  How are they going going to be prepared for that when grades really count toward college?

Q. Won’t this reflect poorly on the school and damage its reputation?  I mean we take pride in our school and this seems like it’s just lowering the expectations.

 



 

 

Standards-Based Grading

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q. My child is a high achiever.  Doesn’t this grading system seem to encourage those students who are not high achievers (or even below average) to succeed and get the same grades as students who are higher learners?

 

A.   Yes!  Those who are not high achievers are encouraged to become so.  We want all students to learn at high levels so that they will be prepared for the next step in their education.  Yet, best of all, standards-based grading encourages all students to achieve.

 

Q. Is standards-based grading preparing students for their futures?  How are they supposed to learn responsibility if they do not have to turn things in on time and are allowed to retake tests? 

 

A.   Standards-based grading does prepare students for their futures because it is actually more reflective of the real world.  How many times have you had to re-do something as an adult?  Perhaps your supervisor asks you to revise a project or proposal before submission.  Or you make adjustments to something at home or work based on new information. It’s important to remember that we are teaching students who have not reached a level of expertise that adults have.  Once they are experts, they will be held to a higher standard.  Having a policy to re-do assignments and retake assessments will help ensure they gain the foundation of knowledge to achieve expert status.  That foundation will enable students to ultimately be prepared for their futures.

 

Q. My child works very hard to get "A" and "B" grades  On the other hand, the students who don't work as hard - or hard at all - will be "rewarded" by being "allowed" to re-take tests and hand in homework late without any consequences (as long as it's handed in before the end of the unit or term).  How is this fair?

 

A.   People learn at different rates, and it takes time to learn new skills. So, it is actually more fair to allow for these developmental differences.

 

Try learning to play a new musical instrument or learning a new software package on the computer. You're a thousand times better after months of practice than you are in the first week. According to several studies in cognitive science, the typical person must do something new 24 times or more just to get to 80% proficiency. We want students to become proficient, but it takes time to reach that stage. Practice is valuable in learning. If that's the case, every student should do 24 or more persuasive essays just to learn how to do them well. We don’t have time for that in a typical school year, but for the times when we push for the important stuff to be truly learned, standards-based grading allows students the opportunities to re-do work and master important skills.

 

Q. Is it right for students to potentially end up with the same grades regardless of whether they took a test once or three times?

 

A.   Absolutely!  We need to rethink the way we view grades.  They are not rewards, affirmation, validation, or compensation. They are communication, that’s it. They serve to accurately report what students know and can do against standards, not reward students for hard work. If a student ultimately masters a skill, it is only right that the grade accurately report that, regardless of how long or how many attempts it took to achieve that.

 

Q. I’m worried that students won’t learn to respect deadlines.  How are they going to respect authority and be ready to meet deadlines in high school?

 

A.   Students don’t build moral fiber and respect for deadlines when teachers slap them with an ‘F’ or a ‘0’ for work not done. This teaches nothing but resentment and increases the temptation to cheat. To recover in full from being irresponsible or from not knowing something teaches far more than attaching a label to the earlier poor work. If we don’t let students re-do assignments and assessments, then we’ve turned over their education to students who are not at the maturity level to make responsible decisions.  Allowing students to move on without having met the standard is abdicating our responsibilities as educators.

 

By moving on we’ve also communicated three messages that are unacceptable:

1) This assignment has no educational value yet I gave it to you anyway,

2) Since you didn’t do all this work, I’m going to let you off the hook from doing it (How does that teach responsibility?), and

3) It’s okay with me if you don’t learn this.

 

If a student is acting irresponsibly, we offer support in order to help that child achieve. Deadlines are certainly important. To encourage and teach students to always put forth their best efforts and to meet deadlines, various strategies are put into place, like late pleas, different formats for assessments, or establishing learning plans. Re-dos and re-assessments are not convenient, thereby making it appealing to try to avoid them.

 

Q. What benefits do high achievers get with standards-based grading?

 

A.   They learn more, mature faster, and they have far more doors opened to them. They take more responsibility for themselves and are far more autonomous in college and career training paths.

 

Q. My child was so proud to be an honor roll student. With standards-based grading won’t everyone be an honor roll student?

 

A.   Wouldn’t it be terrific if all students could enjoy such success? That’s exactly what every school says in its mission statement and literature. We want to encourage students to find satisfaction in knowing that they worked hard, learned and grew a lot, thought of ideas they hadn’t considered before and became something more than they were when they started the learning process. That is far more satisfying than finding pride in surpassing others.

 

Q. Students will be going to go to high schools where grading doesn’t work like this.  How are they going going to be prepared for that when grades really count toward college?

 

A.   Research has shown that students who have experienced standards-based grading and move to a school environment that does not grade according to standards actually perform better than those who have not been held to those standards.  Students are typically better self-advocates, have developed their study skills, and take more initiative in their learning, which will prepare them well for high school and college. 

 

Q. Won’t this reflect poorly on the school and damage its reputation?  I mean we take pride in our school and this seems like it’s just lowering the expectations.

 

A.   Standards Based Grading actually will increase the reputation and standards of the school. The high school will be grateful: students’ grades will mean something. Students will actually know their stuff or they wouldn’t get high marks, and they will be far more independent and good time managers than students from schools that haven’t implemented Standards Based Grading. 

 

 

 

 

Adapted from Rick Wormeli’s work, Standards-based Assessment & Grading:  Principles & Practicalities for Today’s Classroom, December 3-4, 2014.