Standards-Based Grading (SBG) in District 109
Deerfield Public Schools District 109 moved to standards-based grading and reporting (SBGR) at the start of the the 2014-15 school year at the K-5 level. At that time, a team of educators across the District met throughout the year to begin the transition to SBGR at the middle school level as well. After a great deal of research, learning, and professional dialogue, the decision was made to adopt the SBGR approach to communicating student progress for grades 6-8 beginning with the 2016-17 school year.
Why Standards-Based Grading?
The research and experts in the field of grading and reporting have asserted that standards-based grading and reporting allows us to align our grading and reporting practices to our standards-based instructional practices. When implemented, SBGR allows us to more accurately and consistently report student achievement to students and parents/guardians as it relates to state and national standards. Grades on a report card are the ultimate (albeit not the only, nor most important) form of feedback to students and their parents about student progress toward mastery of standards. Grades need to be accurate and meaningful. Students and parents/guardians need a precise picture of what has been learned and what still needs to be learned.
Grading and reporting around specific standards, while using the accompanying strategy of formative assessment with feedback related to progress toward mastery of standards, has been shown to significantly boost achievement and motivation for students. Research by Black and Wiliam (1998) and Hattie (2009) demonstrates that high quality formative assessment and feedback have a powerful impact on student learning. As students’ progress in their mastery of standards, they feel motivated and more successful because enhancing perceived competence is motivating in and of itself. Students begin to think about grades and other assessments that teachers use to provide informational feedback as helpful toward their success.
Purpose Statement for Standards-Based Reports
The purpose of the progress report (K-5) and report card (6-8) should drive our actions as educators leading up to the official reporting periods. The purpose of the standards-based K-5 progress report and (new in 2016-2017) 6-8 report card is as follows: “The purpose of the District progress report/report card is to clearly communicate with parents and students about the achievement of specific learning standards and student work habits. It identifies students’ levels of progress with regard to those standards, areas of strength, and areas where additional time and effort are needed.”
5 Principles of SBG
- Principle 1: Grades and Reports Should Be Based on Clearly Specified Learning Goals and Performance Standards. All 6-8 students in Deerfield Public Schools District 109, no matter their school, will be graded using the same standards.
- Principle 2: Evidence Used for Grading Should Be Valid. Students are assessed individually on what they are taught. There are no trick questions and no surprises.
- Principle 3: Grading Should Be Based on Established Criteria, Not on Arbitrary Norms. On a math assessment, students are graded on the math standards assessed, not on arbitrary norms such as poor handwriting or no name on their paper.
- Principle 4: Focus on Achievement, and Report Other Factors Separately. Students’ achievement should be the only aspect included in their grade. Students’ math grades will reflect their math achievement. However, their work habits and responsibilities during the quarter will be assessed and reported separately.
- Principle 5: Avoid Grading Based on (Mean) Averages. Instead, focus on the most recent, comprehensive, or frequent evidence and/or performance levels.
With standards-based grading, instead of assigning traditional letter grades (A, B, C, D, F), teachers assign 4-3-2-1 grades for a number of content strands within each area of study. (In middle school, students also will receive an overall letter grade for each subject.) Teachers focus on the scores for each of the strands within each subject, determining if students are “exceeding,” “meeting,” “working toward,” or “not meeting” standards. These four levels of proficiency are as follows:
4: Exceeding Standards: Student exceeds grade level expectations by independently applying and utilizing concepts and skills. A student at a level 4 independently uses and applies knowledge in ways that demonstrate higher level thinking skills. Such a student is performing above grade level standards. A student who is able to consistently perform at Level 4 is one who independently demonstrates extensions of his/her knowledge. S/He should be able to create analogies and/or find connections, integrating areas of study. S/He is “advanced” in that s/he is performing at a level above where we would expect her/him to be at a given point in time.
3: Meeting Standards: Student demonstrates grade level expectations for concepts and skills. A student at a Level 3 demonstrates understanding of grade level skills and concepts and requires minimal support. A level 3 throughout the school year indicates strong, excellent work at grade level. The 3 mark is the goal for the grade level and should be celebrated. Level 3 represents those students who are independently able to meet the standards. Students who are performing at Level 3 understand and use concepts and/or vocabulary and/or skills independently. These students understand not just the “what,” but can correctly explain and/or demonstrate the “how” and “why.”
2: Working Toward Standards: Student is progressing toward basic understanding of grade level concepts and skills with assistance. A student at a Level 2 has not yet met the standards but is progressing toward achieving skills and learning grade level concepts. Some support from teachers, parents and/or peers is needed. The 2 mark indicates ongoing growth, but not quite where we would expect them to be at that given point in time. The difference between a Level 1 and a Level 2 is the ability to demonstrate some understanding. At Level 2, a student can correctly identify some concepts and/or vocabulary, and/or use some skills. Students at Level 2 do not make connections among ideas nor are they able to demonstrate their learning without support.
1: Not Meeting Standards: Student shows an emerging awareness of concepts and skills. A student at a Level 1 is currently not meeting the grade level standards. The student demonstrates an inconsistent understanding and application of knowledge. Intervention is needed from teachers and parents. Students at this level are beginning to identify subject area concepts, vocabulary, and/or use skills. They are unable to make connections among ideas or extend the information.
Non‐Academic Indicators (Habits of Success)
The Deerfield Public Schools District 109 has established goals for students in the areas of essential life skills and responsibility. In accordance with these goals, Habits of Success skills will be reported separately on the standards-based report card.
While we believe that work habits and social development criteria should be reflected separately on the report card, they are still a very important part of communicating to parents and students about student progress. These are process factors, rather than results, but they contribute to achievement and are valued both in school and in the wider world. Reporting on such habits communicates information to parents about whether their child is working hard, or hardly working. By including habits as a separate reporting category, teachers can more honestly communicate about such matters as behavior, participation, and completing assignments without distorting a student’s actual achievement in learning.
Currently, Habits of Success are reported as 4-3-2-1 for each subject area. Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, Habits of Success will be reported on a three-point scale using the following levels:
3: Consistently Demonstrates
2: Usually Demonstrates
1: Seldom Demonstrates
Specific to Middle School Report Cards
The middle school report card will include an overall academic achievement letter grade of A-B-C-D-F. For example, a student might see the following on his/her report card:
Overall Academic Achievement: A
In addition to these marks, which will be reported each quarter, teachers also will share comments. During quarters 1 and 3, these comments will be the same for all students and will simply describe in a few sentences what content and skills were taught during the quarter. On the Quarter 2 and Quarter 4 report cards (the “semester” report cards), parents and students will see personalized comments about specific individual strengths and/or areas of focus.
Honor Roll: Middle schools will award two “levels” of Honor Roll and students will qualify as follows:
- Distinguished Model Scholar: Students achieving all 3s and 4s academically and all 3s and 4s on Habits of Success
- Model Scholar: Students achieving all 3s and 4s on Habits of Success
Who to Contact
If you have specific questions about your child’s grade, contact his or her teacher. Teachers can answer questions about standards-based grading and reporting as well. You also can contact building administrators and instructional coaches with questions about SBGR.