“Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” John Dewey

    In the fall of 2019, Hall Middle School will implement a system of grading that is based on reporting progress on specific standards instead of reporting an overall percentage in the form of a letter grade. As a school staff, we are committed to cohesive feedback practices that support every learner’s growth and instill a greater sense of relevance and meaning to the process of learning.

    What is the purpose of standards-based grading (SBG)?

    The purpose of standards-based-grading is to accurately represent students’ abilities and understanding based on clearly defined criteria that align with academic and behavioral standards shared across the school. Since standards are written to be addressed over the course of an entire school year, SBG reports on student growth over time instead of on a simple average of all points accrued.

    How does standards-based grading differ from traditional A-F grading?

    A standards-based grading system measures a student’s proficiency in grade-level standards by prioritizing the most recent, consistent level of performance. A student who may struggle at the beginning of a grading period when first encountering new material is still able to demonstrate proficiency in key content/concepts by the end of a grading period and have that reflected on the report card. In a traditional grading system, a student’s performance for an entire trimester is averaged together. Early quiz scores that are low are averaged together with more proficient performance later in the course, resulting in a lower overall grade than current performance indicates.

    Why is Hall Middle School changing to standards-based grading?

    We want our students to focus on learning and growth, not points and percentages. We want our students to see learning as a continuous process guided by rich feedback, not a process of gaining/losing points. We want every parent to know the specific standards their child is learning and to see growth over time. Other reasons for standards-based-grading include:

    • Traditional grading combines all points earned into one percentage/letter grade, which does not communicate nuanced information on proficiency in specific academic and behavioral standards.
    • Students will be able to explain what they learned or did not learn rather than recite a letter grade or percentage. (e.g. “I can describe the process of cell division by mitosis.”)
    • Standards-based grading provides accurate and meaningful feedback to student, teachers, and parents.
    • Standards-based-grading helps teachers and students focus and adjust instruction and learning.
    • Standards-based grading reports most recent evidence and trends of students learning.

    What will ALMA look like?

    Our report card will list progress on specific content standards for each class, feedback on Habits of Learning, and written comments from the teacher. Standards-based-grading separates academic performance from work habits in order to provide parents a more accurate view of a student’s progress in both academic and behavioral areas. Variables such as effort, participation, collaboration, cooperation and attitude are reported separately instead of being combined with academic performance.

    Where else in the area is standards-based feedback and grading being implemented?

    It is important to note that our elementary schools have been utilizing a similar grading system for several years, so SBG will be familiar to the majority of our families. A growing number of schools are creating report cards that reflect student proficiency on specific standards, including Ross School and Del Mar Middle School (both feeders to Redwood). Branson High School is a part of a nationwide consortium looking to end A-F grading in high school. Numerous teachers in the Tamalpais Union High School District embed standards-based grading practices into their classrooms.

    How does standards-based grading prepare students for high school, college, and careers?

    By giving students ownership of their learning, standards-based grading gives students a more meaningful, personalized learning experience. Standards-based grading teaches students the self-advocacy skills necessary to succeed in college and/or career settings. Based upon work done by Marzano, Guskey, Pickering, Reeves, Popham, Wiggins, Stiggins, O’Connor, and Brookhart, standards-based grading has increased student achievement. Research on standards-based grading has shown that students learn the content on a deeper level and perform better in college when exposed to effective standards-based instruction and feedback practices.

    Resources and Articles

    The Case Against Grades.” Alfie Kohn

    Time for Change After 120 Years of A-F Grading.” Eric Saibel

    Why Grades Are Not Paramount to Achievement.” Ashley Lamb-Sinclair

    Standards Based Grading and Reporting Will Improve Education.” Thomas Guskey and Marco Muñoz

    The Unintended Consequence of Grades.” Lori Soskil

    Will Letter Grades Survive?” Laura McKenna

    What Going Gradeless Taught Me About Doing the ‘Actual Work.’” Aaron Blackwelder

    Standards Based Grading and Reporting Handbook - Renton School District (WA)

    Grades, College Admission, and Competency-Based Education - Competency Works - Chris Sturgis