9 Reasons to Move to Standards Based Grading!

“Perhaps the most counterproductive aspect of schooling as we know it is the conventional system of letter grades. The problem with grades is not the use of symbols, but the use of any DEFENSIBLE plan for coming up with the symbol……most grades reflect what is easy to count and average into a final grade”.–Grant Wiggins

Does your grading system guide students toward excellence and mastery? If not, it’s time for a change. Standards based-grading (SBG) can and should replace age-old point and percentage based grade policies.

Here are 9 reasons why:

1. SBG is more authentic. Grades MUST be meaningful. If you are unable to specifically describe the qualitative difference between an A,B,C,D, or F grade, then it’s time to change the assessment.

2. SBG saves trees. Standards-based grading reduces meaningless paperwork for teachers and students. This allows for more meaningful and timely feedback to students and for teachers to get the most out of every paper turned in. Writing feedback only on homework saves time and still gives teachers the knowledge of where students are in their learning.

3. SBG helps teachers adjust instruction. Students who struggle can continue to retest and use alternate assessments until they show proficiency. They are NOT penalized for late work. Their learning styles can easily be accommodated and modified and the grade book does not need any adjustments. The grade book simply shows where students are in meeting the standards.

4. SBG reminds teachers of how valuable daily formative assessment strategies are in classrooms. Standards are clearly understood and discussed much more with colleagues. Standards-based grading does not work without a clear understanding and use of standards.

5. SBG moves us past status quo. It’s high time we faced the reality that there is a better way to give quality feedback to students about their proficiency in a subject area without punitive damages along the way.

6. SBG reinforces Quality. The ability for one to measure their own work is a learned skill. This is “real world” stuff! If adults on the job make poor decisions and/or cannot determine the quality of their own work, the results are not good. We must teach and demand quality. Students cannot be allowed to turn in sub quality work without being asked to revise. Student behavior, attendance and effort will be reported separately from academic achievement.

7. SBG motivates the students who need it most! Grades can demotivate many students. They try hard, but never get the “A”.

8. SBG motivates students to reach for the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy; CREATING. Grades make it more tempting for students to go for the lowest level of the taxonomy, because REMEMBERING, is much easier to quantify.

9. SBG eliminates traditional grading practices that are inconsistent, often subjective and more about effort than outcomes; and not closely linked to the big goal of college and career readiness. For many high school students, the goal is to figure out the grading game and do the least to get the grade they need.

Shifting from the traditional grading game to a more reliable standards-based system is a challenge. It’s extremely important that our education system embraces high expectations and personalized learning for all students.

I would love to hear your feedback on this article!

2 thoughts on “9 Reasons to Move to Standards Based Grading!

  1. Number 9 is the heart of the paradigm shift / struggle that accompanies this transition to SBG. Am finding out (year one of SBG) that many people inside the building and outside the building are just fine with the ‘sorting’ aspects of traditional grading. After all, it has always worked well for them!


  2. Larry: I have seen a progressive school district implement standards based grading only to have them removed by the school board because students complained that Universities didn’t know how to place them and this was a detriment to their beginnings at this level. A lot of work went into this process and training. Interestingly it is ok to maintain at the elementary level but not secondary in many situations and I believe it stems from the higher ed folks.


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