‘If your grading system doesn’t guide students toward excellence, it’s time for something completely different’ says Patricia L. Scriffiny author of ‘Seven Reasons for Standards-Based Grading’. This grading practice which is gaining popularity, involves measuring students’ proficiency on well-defined course objectives, which Dr. Robert Marzano refers to as ‘Topics’.

Some of the best reasons to switch from traditional grading systems to Standards-Based Grading  in my opinion are:

1)      Grades should have meaning, and Marzano proposes using a gradebook with built-in rubrics so that the scale (he suggests a 4 point scale), describes what the student has accomplished.  Marzano also suggests that if students have mastered one part of the rubric and part of a higher level, they can be given a 3.5 for instance – with an optional note explaining why this is the case.

2)      Standards-Based Grading systems can reduce meaningless paperwork.  Everything does not have to be graded, and the things that are selected for  grading (with feedback), still give a sense of where the students and the class are in their learning. This can avoid unnecessary assessment as summative  assessing (and the volume of marking it brings ) would not be done until there was evidence that most of the class had demonstrated mastery.

3)      Standards-Based Grading helps refine and adjust instruction.  In a traditional grade book, a student could have marks such as 75% on a quiz and 70% on a unit test.  What does this tell us about what the student does or doesn’t know ?  If that student had been assessed  using Standards-Based Grading, we’d have information such as the student was ‘Proficient’ in identifying the elements of a story, ‘Partially proficient’ in writing an alternate ending for a story, and ‘Advanced’ in Comparing and contrasting two stories.  This provides a wealth of information as compared to a 100 point system.

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