Standards Based Grading

Academy of Computer Science and Engineering Middle School

Jill Wnuk, Principal

Jeff LaFleur, Assistant Principal

Britany Grant, Assistant Principal

Frequently Asked Questions -

Standards-based grading at
Academy of Computer Science and Engineering Middle School

What is  standards-based grading?  How is it different from traditional grading?

Traditional Grading System

Standards-Based Grading System

1. Based on assessment methods (quizzes, tests, homework, projects, etc.).

1. Based on learning goals and performance standards. One grade/entry is given per learning goal.

2. Assessments are based on a percentage system. Criteria for success may be unclear.

2. Standards are based on rubrics. Criteria and targets are made available to students ahead of time.

3. Use an uncertain mix of assessment, achievement, effort, and behavior to determine the final grade. May use late penalties and extra credit.

3. Measures achievement only. At Two Rivers, we separate achievement from effort/behavior. No penalties or extra credit given.

4. Everything goes in the grade book – regardless of purpose.

4. Selected assessments (tests, quizzes, projects, etc.) are used for grading purposes. There are opportunities for students to practice skills before they are assessed.

5. Include every score, regardless of when it was collected. Assessments record the average – not the best – work.

5. Emphasize the most recent evidence of learning when grading.

Adapted from O’Connor K (2002).  How to Grade for Learning: Linking grades to standards (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Why had CompSci adopted standards-based grading?

At CompSci, we focus on the whole child - academically, socially, and emotionally.  We believe that standards-based grading provides a more accurate picture of how a student is performing in a particular class.  We emphasize the transferable skills that are necessary to be successful in middle school and beyond.  It fits into our focus on growth mindset by emphasizing the learning process over performance on a single assessment.  

Our report card is now focused on performance standards and skills.  Student effort and behavior is communicated to your regularly through our Mindset Progress Reports.  However, the standards assessed on the report card measure only achievement.   

What is the advantage to a standards-based grading system?

Your child will be receiving specific feedback on what your child can do right now.  The teachers are able to individualize more effectively to your child’s academic needs.  In addition, skills are revisited throughout the school year, providing your child with the opportunity to demonstrate their performance level separate from a unit or from one test. 

Why isn’t my child “at standard”?

When teachers are assessing your child’s performance level, they are considering not only whether your child has demonstrated the necessary skills, but if they can demonstrate those skills consistently and independently.  This means that your child will have to demonstrate the skills being assessed multiple times and will need to demonstrate their skills on their own.  

Our goal is for your child to be at standard by the end of the school year.  The teachers will be teaching, reteaching, and supporting your child throughout the learning process.  It is completely appropriate and expected that your child will not be able to demonstrate independence in the skills being assessed until the second half of the school year. 

Why is my child “below standard”?

Your child may be performing below standard for several reasons.  (1) He/she may have gaps in his/her skills which are impacting his/her progress in an area.  (2) He/she may require consistent reteaching of the new skills that he/she is being taught.   (3) Your child’s teacher may not have any evidence regarding your child’s progress in a particular set of skills.  If this is the case, your child’s academic effort scores should be indicating that they are not completing and handing in assignments.

If my child is below standard, are they failing?

No, performance levels are not equal to an A-F scale from a traditional grading system.  Below standard indicates a level of performance in relation to the expectations of the grade level.  

Has my child finished all of their work?   Are they not doing their work?

If your child is performing below or near standard, it is not simply that they need to do more work in order to improve.  Of course, effort is required in any task.  However, in standard-based grading, we are assessing skills, not effort.  Your child may have completed all of the work assigned to them and may still be below standard/near standard - especially if he/she has skill gaps that need to be addressed.  

If you would like to know about your child’s effort, the mindset progress report that you receive every three weeks will provide you with that information.  The Academic Effort and Active Learning categories of that report will let you know if your child is completing and handing in their work.  However, it is possible to finish all of your work and to be performing below standard.  

What is the report card telling me?

This is a snapshot in time.  It is how your child is doing at this point in time.  If your child is performing below standard in an area, this may indicate that your child needs more practice/reteaching in that area as there are likely gaps in skills that are impacting performance.

During the first half of the year, it is expected that not every skill has been taught/assessed yet.

Are you only assessing my child in three (or four) areas?

Our report cards provide you with information about 3-4 reporting categories for each of your child’s classes.  However, these categories are still rather broad and there are multiple skills and standards that fall under each reporting category.   We are assessing your child in all of the skills that relate to that category. Students may have achieved grade level standard on some skills within a category, but not others. 

How is my child’s performance level calculated?

Each reporting category has a series of skills, standards, and content associated with it.  The teachers have created rubrics that address these skills and standards.  After the teacher has taught the skill(s) and provided your child with the opportunity to practice those skills with feedback, he/she will use a variety of evidence to determine your child’s performance level.  These may be large assessments - sometimes referred to as summative assessments - like a test, essay, or project.  They may also look at smaller assessments like a short response, a discussion, or an exit ticket.   

In addition, a teacher may assess some students and not others if he/she believes that they are ready to demonstrate what they know/can do.  

How does homework impact performance level?

Homework is frequently an opportunity for your child to practice the skills that he/she has been taught.  Practice is important if you want to improve in any skill area.   In some cases, students will be asked to complete an assignment at home in order to provide them with more time.  

Does my child’s performance level reset each quarter?

No, your child’s performance level is ongoing.  We consistently assess and reassess your child’s performance level throughout the school year.  

What is the difference between a mindset progress report and a report card?

 The mindset progress report, which goes home every month, provides you with information related to your child’s behavior, effort, and work habits.  It focuses on the habits necessary to be a student.  The report card provides you with information related to your child’s academic performance in each class.   Effort does not necessarily correlate to performance.  Therefore, we feel that the two reports will provide you with an accurate picture of your child’s progress through middle school.

How does this work with high school?

Standards-based grading actually provides a high school with more information about your child and their academic skills than traditional grading does.  In addition, with the number of school options for students now, high schools have had to adapt.  Many high schools will independently assess student performance in order to select the most appropriate course of study for your child.  In addition, high schools often will use recommendations to assist in placing students in appropriate levels.  

Is there a way for me to track my child’s progress?

You can always contact your child’s teacher with specific questions regarding progress.  In addition, student performance on individual assignments may be found in Schoology or in your child’s binder.  You have been receiving the mindset progress report and will continue throughout the year.  This is an excellent way to track your child’s effort as a student.  You will be receiving the academic report card quarterly.  This will help you track your child’s progress toward standard.