Standards Based / Referenced Grading Actions

Five Key Actions to Promote Standards Based / Referenced Grading

Focus on Academic Standards

For any standards based grading system, teachers must focus their grading on student work directly tied to priority academic standards. (My dad would call that a blinding flash of the obvious.) Final student grade determinations cannot include extraneous non-academic factors such as effort, behavior, attendance, etc. Teachers must use evidence from assignments, assessments, tasks, and student performance that are directly linked to learning standards and benchmarks.

Mastery Grading

Mastery grading is a scoring method that incorporates standards based approach with a pass/fail system (Guskey, 2010). Teachers using mastery grading practices establish a cutoff, or threshold, between student product submissions that demonstrate mastery of essential objectives and those that do not. These quality work thresholds provide students’ targets to strive for in their work submissions to earn the minimum amount of points possible—But also demonstrate a significant level of mastery. Anything work that lacks specific level quality / progress towards standards is considered non-mastery and students do not receive any points or grade.


Minimize what is actually graded

Secondary teachers face a daily challenge of trying to provide quality feedback consistently to all of their 100+ students (for some its closer to 150). Teachers can provide more effective feedback to students by eliminating scoring / grading non-essential tasks. Teachers must practice they assign—most homework, classwork, or first attempts at mastery—as non-gradable.Avoid ALL Grading EarlyTeachers can minimize what is actually graded and promote deliberate practice by should avoiding grading during the beginning stages of a unit. Teachers need to cultivate deliberate practice, where students refine their skills and make connections from repletion and feedback. Students who do not fear that their early mistakes will count against them permanently in lost grade points develop better assessment capabilities.


Ensure Accurate Weighting (Separate Product and Process Criteria)

Teachers must ensure any degree of weighting of points / marks related to grades & feedback they provide students is accurate related to the rigor of the task / assessment. The more aligned point values are to mastery demonstration of concepts and skills link to academic standards—The more truthful their grading actions will be.Separate Product and Process Criteria

  1. Product success criteria are the specific demonstrations of skill in a performance or creation artifacts.
  2. Process success criteria are steps and methods students use to develop their product or performance. (Examples: steps in a mathematical procedure, specific homework assigned for practice, or graphic organizer to support the writing process).

Process success criteria help student achieve learning objectives but are not 100% necessary to do so (Clarke, 2005, p.37). If teachers grade and evaluate how students are using process success criteria, students become confused about the level of their performance.

Eradicate the Average (once and for all)

As the World Health Organization did for small pox in the 1970s, teachers & leaders could do as much for grading health by eradicating the practice of averaging student’s final grades.Students who show mastery of standard on their first of fifteen attempts have still demonstrated mastery. A standards based / referenced grade must convey where students are currently in demonstrating mastery, not the path they took to get there. Academic standards do not ask teachers to include the number of attempts a student needed to determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text.