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Standards-Based Grading

This information provides a history of the implementation of Standards Based Grading at SHMS.

The primary purpose of grades is to communicate achievement to students, parents and teachers.
- Ken O'Connor

In his book A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades, Ken O'Connor identifies issues with the traditional grading system and what schools and teachers need to do to allow grades to be more accurate, meaningful, consistent, and support learning. In doing so, grades become a communication tool for learning and can actually help intrinsically motivate students to learn.

The transition to standards-based grading isn't one that can be done overnight. Teachers, students and parents need time to learn about and implement the changes. A contingent of teachers at South Hills Middle School has been studying and piloting various facets of standards-based grading for the last two years. We are now ready as a faculty to begin implementing some of the grade fixes that Ken O'Connor suggests. These fixes are:

  • Include only achievement in grades. Include student behaviors (i.e., effort, participation, adherence to class rules, preparation, etc.) in the citizenship grade.
  • Accept late work without penalty to the grade. The learning opportunity that class work provides is more important to us than the deadline.
  • Seek only evidence that a standard has been learned. Because late work can be turned in without penalty and, if students will meet with teachers for additional preparation and study, even quizzes, tests and other assessments can be re-taken, there is no need to provide extra credit.
  • Students shouldn't be punished for academic dishonesty through their academic grade - especially if we're trying to communicate achievement. Other consequences should be used for situations of academic dishonesty.
  • The effort and achievement of other students should not determine another student's grade. Group grades should be avoided; rather, focus on an individual student's achievement should be maintained.
  • We need to be clear about our learning goals for students in our daily lessons. Teachers also need to provide specific feedback along the learning journey so that students can adjust as needed.
  • Students should have opportunities to reflect on their learning, analyze their own achievement data, identify strengths and weaknesses in their learning and habits, set measurable goals to improve based on that data, and use effective strategies and support from the teacher to reach that goal.

Additional Information on the history of Standards-Based Grading at SHMS:

Parent Article: Traditional vs Standards-Based Grading-Whats-in-a-Grade?

Parent Article: Grading and the Growth Mindset

Parent Article: On Late Work…

Parent Article: Test Retakes and Developmental Learning

Download this brochure for more information: A Parent's Guide to Standards-Based Grading

What is the PRIMARY Purpose of Grades? - Video by Ken O'Connor