In an attempt to make grading and evaluation more meaningful, standards based grading is replacing traditional letter grades in some schools.
The Willard, Missouri school district is piloting standards-based grading in kindergarten through grade 4 this school year.
It means doing away with traditional letter grades — A, B, C, D and F — as well as short report cards.
“This is all about learning. This is all about reporting what has been learned,” said Superintendent Kent Medlin. “This is all about mastering skills.”
Traditional grading often denotes an average and the letter grade can include homework, extra credit, class participation and test scores.
“Your kid might get a C. OK, what does that mean? Does that mean that they didn’t turn (an assignment) in on time? Does it mean they didn’t show their work?” Medlin said. “Those are the things we get caught up in traditional grading. Those are components that are almost outside of ‘does this student really understand?’”
Standards based grading, a growing trend nationally, provides parents with detailed information about their child’s performance at that grade level. For each standard or skills the student is expected to learn, it records if the student has achieved mastery, is nearing mastery or needs remediation.
“If we’re ever going to challenge grade-level structure and customize student learning, this is the first step,” Medlin said. “We are asking ourselves now, ‘Is it possible to customize the learning of a child and let them progress at their own pace?’ We have to have this in place to get to that.”
This approach is also designed to provide meaningful feedback to students so they can make academic gains.
“It’s a stepping stone to a different type of school because it’s specific to the student,” said Assistant Superintendent Stewart Pratt. “In the past, the meanings of grades were kind of blurred. In this situation, the meaning of grades is very specific and it’s very individualized.”
Pratt said this type of detailed information is empowering to students and their families.
“The key to learning is feedback. Timely, precise feedback is how kids learn and standards-based grading provides a better mechanism for feedback,” he said.
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