A few years ago, we began transitioning to a standards-based grading system across the district. This multi-year process started because teachers and students felt a need to create a more equitable grading system that eliminates bias and subjectivity from grades.
Restructuring a grading system is a complex process, which takes time to fully implement. We started by aligning our grading expectations at the middle and high school in 2019-20 and have continued to move closer to full implementation of standards-based grading each year.
Why are we changing our grading practices?
- We believe that grades should be accurate, fair and transparent for students, teachers, families and postsecondary institutions.
- Standards-based grading has been shown to address known racial inequities that can occur when grades measure subjective factors like participation, attendance and homework completion, as opposed to the actual knowledge gained by the student and mastery of the subject matter.
- Standards-based grading ensures that student grades are used as a tool for feedback on learning, not as a reward or punishment.
- Standards-based grading also raises the expectations of students by holding students accountable for demonstrating learning instead of solely completing work for points.
What is standards-based grading?
- Standards-based grading is an evidence-based best practice that awards grades based on what students actually learn, not how they learn it. In other words, it is more important that a student master the content than complete assignments in a certain way or on a certain schedule.
- Research shows that standards-based grading helps ensure students are better prepared for today’s world by teaching them critical thinking skills, creative problem-solving and intrinsic motivation.
What does this mean for my child?
- Students are still assigned homework but are not graded on how well they do on the homework. This allows students to practice skills taught in class without penalty if they still need more assistance in learning the material.
- Students have deadlines but are given until the end of the next unit to turn in late work. They are also given the opportunity to retake a test to demonstrate improved learning over time. These practices are research-based to take the bias out of grading and help students to prioritize actual learning over just earning points on assignments.
- By ensuring grades solely measure a student’s learning of state standards, we take the guesswork out of what makes up a course grade. Students know exactly what the expectations are to be successful in the classroom and to earn specific grades.
What is the implementation timeline?
- 2019-20: We began implementing standards-based grading at the secondary level when teachers eliminated points for participation, extra credit, homework completion and allowed for retakes of tests.
- 2020-21: Our elementary schools implemented standards-based reporting (read our 2021 message to families).
- During the pandemic: We refined our secondary grading practices by not assigning homework and allowing for flexible deadlines. These practices existed from the spring of 2020 through the 2020-21 school year.
- 2022: Secondary teachers returned to stricter deadlines and began to assign homework (although it is not part of the grade). The new grading practices became board policy after students, teachers and families in the Safe and Supportive Schools Committee approved the changes.
- PreK-5: Elementary schools shifted from trimesters to quarters to align with secondary schools. Families will have the opportunity to check in with their child's teacher on progress toward meeting academic standards during teacher conferences at the end of the first and third quarters. Families will receive a formal report card at the end of the second and fourth quarters.
- 6-12: This year, teacher leaders have created common definitions of what it means to earn a certain letter grade to create more consistency and transparency for students and families.
Want to learn more?
- Grades PreK-5: Talk to your child’s teacher or contact Rachel Gens, Director of Elementary Education, at 612-798-6058 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Grades 6-12: Talk to one of your child’s classroom teachers or visit with our instructional staff at the upcoming middle school or high school conferences. We will have a table set up at both events to talk with families about standards-based grading. You can also reach out to Megan Stecher, Director of Secondary Education, at 612-798-6023 or email@example.com.
- Our website (RHS | RMS)
- RPS Policy 601: Academic Standards and Instructional Curriculum
- Book: Grading from the Inside Out by Tom Schimmer
- Podcast: Aspire To Lead, Episode with Tom Schimmer on Grading from the Inside Out
- Video: Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, How It Transforms Schools and Classrooms