New system gives meaning to grading

The idea of standards-based grading started in elementary schools a few years ago according to Pam Zeigler, director of elementary education. “The elementary schools switched to standards-referenced reporting in 2012 to better align our performance reports (report cards) with the essential skills and concepts that we expected our students to know and be able to do at each grade level.”

At the junior high and high school level, the decision “was a long-term process that came from an outgrowth of our work as a Professional Learning Community,” according to Dan Conrad, director of secondary education.

As students adjust to the current grading system, how it affects their GPAs and college entrance applications, they are also trying to adapt to the changes in the way homework is given out and graded. 

Under the old system, homework was repeatedly graded and entered into the grade book, giving the students who might not have done well on a test a chance to pad their grades. However, according to Dan Conrad, “Students are now graded on what they have learned, not on how many points they can accumulate for assignments, homework and tests.” 

So even though this hurts some students who relied on completing homework to boost their grades, it will eventually help their learning, as it will more prepare them for their futures.

To help students understand the rationale behind the switch to standards-based grading, Kirstey Ewald, an educational consultant from Central Rivers Area Education Agency, has some things to keep in mind. One of the reasons to switch to standards-based grading is because it “gives a wealth of information to help the teacher adjust instruction to meet the needs of all students,” so the decision was made to improve the way students are graded and provide more in-depth information on how well they’re learning. 

The concept of standards-based grading is based on helping students take ownership of their grades and provide them with specific areas they need to work on. It also gives teachers an idea of how students are mastering each skill, and it shows if they have consistent struggles with one specific topic so that teachers can help them individually with that topic. 

It also gives teachers the ability to see if they need to change the way they teach each subject based on the level of proficiency in each topic, and when the teacher creates tests and projects, they know what skills they need to assess. The focus is now on skills rather than a certain amount of points.

This reform in the education system in the United States started in the eighties when administrators were noticing how the old grading system wasn’t working, so they worked on developing skills each student needs to graduate with a meaningful diploma that says that the student knows how to read and do basic math, which would be required by any employer in the future. It also allows equal opportunity for every student to learn and achieve a high school diploma no matter what their background is or was.

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