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FAQ Standards Based Grading

What is Standards-Based Grading?

In education, the term standards-based refers to instructional approaches that are aligned to learning standards —i.e., written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. In other words, standards-based refers to the use of learning standards to guide what gets taught and assessed in schools.


What are standards?

Standards are statements about what students should know & be able to do at each grade level. The Colorado Department  of Education posts adopted standards at the following site: Colorado Department of Education Standards


How is standards-based grading different than what we're currently doing?

Traditionally, many elements are combined to determine your child’s grade – test scores, quizzes, completed homework, classroom participation, coming to school on time, extra credit – then, the average of the quarter, trimester or semester’s work equates to a percentage for a grade. Standards-based grading separates those elements. Parents will be able to see specifically if their child needs help with an academic concept, or if he or she can’t remember to turn in homework. Standards-based grading measures a student’s mastery of grade-level standards by prioritizing the most recent, consistent level of performance.


What are the advantages of Standard-Based Grading?

Improved communication and additional feedback for parents, students and teachers - parents and students will see areas of academic strength and weaknesses over time rather than seeing a test score or homework assignment and wondering what the next steps might be. Teachers will know which standards they need to re-teach. Students will know which standards they need additional learning opportunities and/or practice. Students and families will have student friendly scales to support the conversation around goals.


How is this different compared to the way students were already assessed in elementary school?

Students will continue to have assessments as they have in the past. However, assessments will now focus on certain standards/targets and students will know where they are in their progression of learning the target.


How will other districts understand the grades?

When a student transfers, their records are sent upon request from the new school. Each student’s progress report will include a section explaining how to determine what a Standards-Based Grade number score means. 


Who else is using this system?

A few of the districts using this system are Lakeland, Florida; Monett, Missouri; Adams 50, Westminster; Northwood, North Dakota; Novato, California; Austin Texas; Evanston Wyoming; Wichita Kansas; Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, NE; and Rutland, VT.


Consistency in Grading

Will all teachers grade the same?

Teachers will use both obtrusive (written) and unobtrusive (verbal, informal, etc.) assessments.  The expectations for meeting mastery of the standards will be the same; however, the way teachers assess may differ.


How do we make sure all students are meeting their grade level standards if each student has different goals by the end of the year?

All students in a grade level have grade level standards. The goal for all students is to meet these standards by the end of the year.


What is “mastery”? 

Mastery is the term used when students have met the grade level standard/target.


Will homework be graded?

In this system, homework is not part of the academic grade.  However, it can be scored using the behavior/work habit targets.


How many data points will teachers use to determine scores?

Teachers will collect data that becomes part of a broad body of evidence for evaluating student progress and growth. The amount of data collected/needed will depend on the student and standard.


Will all teachers grade the same? Subjective or objective, based on how they feel the child is doing vs. how another teacher feels the child is doing?

All assessments should be aligned to a standard and a proficiency scale. This will provide a common language when determining student mastery of standards. Professional judgement will still be needed when determining where a student is in their progression of learning.


Evaluation of the System

How will the new system be evaluated to assess if it is achieving the desired outcomes?

Assessment of this system will include analyzing state achievement results and feedback from stakeholders.


Will there be any follow up sessions to share how things are going or possibly how the new grading system may be adjusted, if needed?

We will be sharing information such as this with the school board throughout the implementation.


How do you find/know the average level for each subject?

In this system, the focus is on the progression of learning according to proficiency scales and mastering standards. It is not necessary to focus on averaging scores.


How can I help my child perform at home to get him more prepared to perform at a 4.0 level?

Content will be taught at the foundational level (2.0) and mastery level (3.0). Anything a student does that is above and beyond the standard might be considered at the 4.0 level. Focusing first on mastery of the standards is key.

Students with IEP’s

Students should receive a 1 if the gap between their demonstration of learning and the expected rate of progress is parallel or widening.

If a student is well below grade level expectation a teacher needs to consider the following:       

  • What interventions are being provided that target the area of need        
  •  Allow targeted accommodations that allow the student to demonstrate their learning
  • Ensure that the teacher is assessing the standard   


Students with IEP are identified for many reasons. A student with IEP will not ALWAYS receive a 1 or 2.  Teachers will need to collaborate with stakeholders in order to fully understand the student’s unique strengths and needs.    


Is there research to support the use of standards-referenced grading?

Yes. Please visit Understanding the Jeffco Curriculum to view documents.


Are the learning standards available online?  If so, where?  For all grades?

Yes. Please visit Jeffco Public Schools Elementary Report Card to view documents listing the standards for each elementary grade level.

Visual Arts, Music and PE Grading  Will Visual Arts, Music, and PE be part of this grading?

Yes.  All elementary music, physical education, and visual arts courses will have targets and scales, students will be able to set goals in each class based on the proficiency scales.


Behavior and Work Ethics

Why was work ethics removed from grading standards?

We believe behavior/work habits are so important, we are separating them from the academic score. This ensures our academic scores truly reflect what students know and can do academically. This also provides a way for specific, valuable feedback to be given for behavior/work habits. At the secondary level, these types of standards/targets are called Essential Skills. 


Grade Conversion

Will students have GPA’s in MS & HS?

Yes.  Student scores on standards will be shown on progress reports. All scores on standards in a content area will then be converted to a letter grade based on the school’s readiness. Letter grades in all subject areas can then be used to determine a Grade Point Average (GPA).


How will I know how my child is doing without letter grades?  What does a 2 mean?  Is a 2 a C?

It will be important to look at the performance indicators on the report card.  We will not convert to letter grades in elementary. 


How is this going to be different from A-F scale?

Traditionally, students received an overall letter grade indicating their performance in class. This included both academic and behavior/work habit performance. Now, students will receive feedback regarding their performance toward mastering standards. The academic performance will be graded separately from the behavior/work habit performance.

The district will adopt a Secondary Conversion to Letter Grades chart that will help answer this question. This work is still in progress.


How are high school transcripts going to look for universities?

Transcripts will have all necessary information needed for students applying to colleges/universities.


Report Cards

How will I know prior to the end of the year report if my child is falling behind?

Teachers will continue to monitor students that may be struggling or need enrichment and communicate specific needs with parents. Progress reports at the elementary level will go home each trimester.


How often will reports be sent home?

Report Cards at the elementary level will go home each trimester, three times per year.  We encourage you to have conversations with teachers throughout the year.

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