On July 24th, 2023, the Renville County West School Board approved a resolution to return to Traditional Grading (based on a 100 point scale) for grades 7-12 effective with the 2023-2024 school year. Classes will still be structured around (grade level) standards as adopted by the State of Minnesota. Standards Based Grading will continue to be the method of reporting what a student knows and is able to do for those students in grades K-6. While the District still believes in the principles of Standards Based Grading, implementation at the High School level did not go as planned for the staff, students and parents at RCW. To the end, grades 7-12 will return to the traditional percentage based grading system for the 2023-2024 school year. The traditional grading scale for grades 7-12 can be found in the RCW Student/Parent Handbook.
Standards Based Grading Defined
Standards Based Grading (SBG) communicates how students are performing on a set of clearly defined learning targets called standards. The purpose of standards-based grading is to identify what a student knows, or is able to do, in relation to pre-establish learning targets, as opposed to simply averaging grades/scores over the course of a grading period, which can mask what a student has learned, or not learned, in a specific course.
Standards Based vs Traditional Grading
Unlike with traditional grading systems, a standards-based grading system measures a student's mastery of grade-level standards by prioritizing the most recent, consistent level of performance. Thus, a student who may have struggled at the beginning of a course, when first encountering new material, may still be able to demonstrate mastery of key content/concepts by the end of a grading period.
In a traditional grading system, a student's performance for an entire quarter is averaged together. Early quiz scores that were low would be averaged together with more proficient performance later in the course, resulting in a lower overall grade than current performance indicates.
Standards-based report cards separate academic performance from work habits and behavior in order to provide parents a more accurate view of a student's progress in both academic and behavioral areas. Variables such as effort, participation, timeliness, cooperation, attitude and attendance are reported separately, not as an indicator of a student's academic performance.
Benefits of SBG
- Students are partners in their own learning.
- Students monitor their own progress toward the achievement of learning targets.
- Learning targets are clearly defined.
- Students understand the expectations and purpose of each learning experience.
- All assessments are clearly aligned to the learning targets.
- Students are offered multiple opportunities and ways through which to demonstrate mastery.
- All students can achieve to their highest potential.
- Parents can monitor their students progress.
- Parents know what areas their child needs more support and where their child should be pushed to higher levels.
- In seeking colleges, parents and students have a better idea of the students true academic ability.
- In the same way that expectations for students are clearer, expectations for teachers are clearer as well.
- Teachers know exactly where students stand in their progress toward learning targets and what supports to provide.
- Assessment results help teachers determine when students need extra help and when they need more challenging work.
In order to provide a more accurate and comprehensive picture of what an individual student is capable of, the student's academic progress will be reported separately from their behavior. An individual student's Life Skills Grade describes their ability to meet school-wide behavioral expectations, including work ethic, work habits, dispositions and attitudes. Reporting Life Skills grades separately from academic grades allows teachers to identify and address specific behavior issues that may impact student learning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why we made the change?
At Renville County West, we believe grades are about what students learn, and our gradebook should accurately reflect that. Standards Based Grading reports what students know and are able to do within each content area. Standards Based Grading allows students, teachers, and parents the ability to better see where a student is with their knowledge in connection to a standard at a given point in time.
We also believe that benefits of change include the following:
- Traditional methods of grading do not accurately reflect what a student knows and is able to do. (i.e. How do you distinguish between an 83% and an 84%?)
- Grades may be clouded by student behavior that isn't connected to course standards. (i.e. participation, late homework, extra credit.)
- The focus will shift from the letter grade to learning the standards. (i.e. I can describe the process of cell division by mitosis.)
- It provides accurate and meaningful feedback to student, teachers, and parents.
- Leads to higher learning through improved accountability and engagement as students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery because not every student learns at the same pace. (i.e. Opportunity for extra practice and retakes of summative assessments)
- Reports most recent evidence and trends of students learning. (i.e. Test 1= 40% and retake= 80% student receives 80%- most recent vs. average of the two tests)
Does a 4, 3, 2, 1 = A, B, C, D?
You cannot really compare a traditional grading system to standards-based grading. It is like comparing "apples to oranges." Standards-based grading identifies a standard and indicates whether or not a student is meeting the standard at a given point in the school year. A score of (3) is defined as meeting grade level standards and indicates that a student has demonstrated mastery of the skills that were expected to be learned by that point in the grading period.
What is the point of doing practice/homework when it doesn't count towards the academic grade?
Homework/practice is directly related to the standard and future summative assessments. Homework/practice is used as a formative assessment for both the teacher and student. It is a valuable piece of evidence of what the student knows and/or doesn't know at a given time in the learning process. Based on this practice, teachers provide feedback that is important in the learning process.
How will I know if my child needs help?
Receiving a 1, 2, or I (Incomplete) on a standard can be a sign that a student is in need of extra support in the areas where they are receiving low marks. This is one benefit of standards-based reporting; areas in need of support are clearly evident.
How is this fair for students who get it the first time?
Fair is not always equal. It is not a matter of "fair," but rather a matter of learning the course content. All students (and people, in general) learn at different rates and in different ways. It's more critical that there's equity of opportunity. For these two types of students, it might well have been the student who took the test 2-3 times who actually needed the teacher and the relearning more than the student who took it once. So the situations are fair to each student, in his/her own circumstances. Standards-based practices and learning course content is based on mastery of skills. Public school teachers have an ethical and legal responsibility to ensure ALL students learn the required content by the end-of-the-year/course.
My child was issued a P on a grade report, what does this mean?
At this particular time, no summative assessments have been given to definitively determine the student's level of proficiency. Therefore, if the formative assessments have shown positive progress towards proficiency, he/she will be issued a P (passing).
In some courses, a Pass/Fail system will be used. Therefore, you may see P's for final grades
Common Language of Standards Based Grading
Standards Based Learning - Classroom instruction, assessment, and experiences that are aligned with standards
Standards Based Grading - Criterion referenced grading system based on student proficiency in relation to standards, separation of academic achievement, process, and progress
Grade - Final letter grade reported at end of grading period
Academic Strand - Broad topics for a given class that power standards are reported under; these will be what appear on the report card
Power Standard - Standards that will be reported on; a power standard may include the grouping of similar learning targets
Learning Target - "I can" statement that breaks down a power standard and outlines what a student should be able to do
Feedback - Communication that must be given for growth, can be from instructor, student, or self
Proficient - Acceptable levels of achievement for a power standard
Evidence - Work that demonstrate a student's level of proficiency of a power standard
Lack of Evidence - No evidence has been provided by student for a power standard
Formative Assessments - An assessment that takes place in conjunction with learning; is used while instruction is still in process; provides feedback for further learning. Examples could include observations, practice, quizzes, presentations, and projects.
Summative Assessments - An assessment given to summarize learning which is given at the conclusion of a unit or a course. Examples could include: quizzes, tests, reports, projects, and presentations. The academic grade will be calculated mostly by summative assessments.
Life Skills - Classroom behaviors, actions, and work habits students demonstrate throughout learning that are reported separately from the academic mark