Why I use Standards Based Grading
  • Disclaimer: Much of this information was sourced from a document called SBS Frequently Asked Questions produced by Excelsior Springs High School.


    What is Standards-Based Grading?

    When you log into your parent portal, you may notice that your student's grades look different than they may have in the past. This year I am using Standards-Based Grading (SBG) to assess student work. All graded formal assessments are based upon specific NC Essential Science Standards. Students are then assigned a level of mastery of this standard/skill(s). Learning is a process, and it isn't always a linear one. Some learning objectives might take a student more than 1 try to master. This approach is designed to grow each student's knowledge throughout the entire semester.

    Standards-based grading measures your student’s mastery of the essential standards for a class, or how well your student understands the material in class. At the beginning of every unit, the teacher will break down the standards for the unit into smaller objectives and criteria using a detailed rubric. During the unit, the student is assessed to see if they truly know the material using a variety of assessments, such as traditional pencil-and-paper tests, projects, discussions, or reports. The class grade will be based on all of the evidence the teacher collects demonstrating mastery of the essential standards. The goal of this approach is to provide the teacher, student, and parent as accurate a picture as possible of the student’s learning and to encourage a dialogue about how the student can master the material for the class. In particular, because learning is a process that takes place over time, each assessment will provide feedback for the student about what to focus on next, and the student will be allowed to retake assessments. If the new assessments shows a higher level of mastery, that new score replaces the old one. 

    How is standards-based grading different from traditional grading?

    In the traditional 100-point grading system, a student’s grades are typically based on all of the work assigned in class, including classwork, homework, projects, quizzes, and tests. These scores are often arranged in the grade book based on the type of assignment rather than on the essential standards for the class. The grade may also include points for non-academic factors, such as participation, effort, or attitude. Standards-based grading does not separate out tests, homework, or projects. All of the work a student does is used to assess the student’s mastery of the essential standards. A student’s scores from from their work are tracked by the essential standards, which gives the teacher, student, and parent a very detailed picture of which standards a student has mastered. Non-academic factors like behavior, attitude, and attendance are not included in this grade and reported in a different manner.

    • Standards Based Grading is a well researched approach that eliminates many of the pitfalls of the 100 point system. 
    • This method focuses on mastery of the State Essential Standards through Learning Objectives.
    • Individual assignments will not be graded, however you will receive feedback to track your understanding. 
    • Your grade is determined on your mastery of the standards as demonstrated on assessments. Please see the list of NC Essential Science standards on my website or on your handouts.
    • Your mastery is scored as "Mastered (Proficient)", "Basic Understanding", and "Below Basic Understanding".
    • We will work through the objectives and standards as a class, however you may reassess any standard throughout the semester. This method is about developing mastery. Students do not all master content at the same pace. 
    • You can reassess on any standard by conferencing with me, and submitting an application.  An application includes a calendar of completion to help you prepare for the reassessment. I will not grant you a reassessment if you do not show me that you have worked to develop new understanding of the content.
    • All work must be original. Every assignment. If you copy someone else’s work, I cannot determine mastery and disciplinary action will have to be taken.

    This method is more about the end goal of mastering the content. I care more about what my students know at the end of my course than what I consider to be arbitrary deadlines throughout the semester. 

    What do the scores on the 3.0 scale mean?

    The scores on the 3.0 scale each have a very specific meaning. They are:

    • 3 (mastered or proficient in the standards)
    • 2 (basic understanding and working consistently toward mastery)
    • 1 (below basic understanding or working inconsistently toward mastery)


    ***Just because classwork is not formally graded does not make it optional. We will be working hard every day to develop mastery. Students may find that if choose not to complete skill building guided practice assignments, then they will not be eligible to participate in fun hand's on labs and group projects. We need everyone to take ownership of their pathway to success.