• Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the purpose of standards-based grading? 
    The purpose of standards-based grading is to accurately represent students’ abilities and understanding of clearly defined criteria that align with academic and behavioral standards. Since most standards are written to be learned over the course of an entire school year, standards-based-grading reports on student growth over time instead of on a simple average of points accrued.

    How does standards-based grading differ from traditional grading? 
    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 grading period 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 trimester 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. Under the standards-based grading system, formative assessments over the course of the trimester will measure the skills necessary for students to master in order to successfully complete cumulative summative assessments.

    Why did Del Mar Middle School change to Standards-Based Grading? 
    With the adoption of new state standards in English Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, and Visual and Performing Arts over the last decade, teacher teams have adjusted what they teach and how they engage their students in the learning process. Teachers and administrators dove deep into their own learning and professional development. As part of that process, and as natural next steps, teachers reflected on and adjusted the ways they assess their students, communicate feedback, and grade. Ultimately, the team of educators felt they would be negligent to continue using the traditional A-F grading system, as it does not support the new standards or the beliefs and practices we have embedded into our classrooms. 

    The change was made so that grades earned by students more accurately reflect what they know and can do. Standards-based grading reports what students know and are able to do within each content area. The real-time monitoring of students' performance reflects a more accurate picture of student achievement. As educators, we want our students to focus on learning and growth, rather than points and percentages. Other reasons for standards-based-grading include: 

    • Traditional methods of grading do not accurately reflect what a student knows and is able to do. 
    • Students will be able to explain what they learned or did not learn rather than recite a letter grade or percentage. (i.e. I can describe the process of cell division by mitosis.) 
    • Standards-based grading provides accurate and meaningful feedback to students, teachers, and parents. 
    • Standards-based grading helps teachers and students focus and adjust instruction and learning. 
    • Standards-based grading leads to higher learning through improved accountability and engagement as students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery. (i.e. retakes of assessments or assignments) 
    • Standards-based grading reports the most recent evidence and trends of student learning. 


    Where else in our area is standards-based feedback and grading being implemented? 
    It is important to note that our elementary schools have been utilizing a similar grading system for several years, so standards-based feedback and grading will look familiar to returning families. A growing number of schools are using report cards that reflect student proficiency on specific standards, including Ross School and Hall Middle School (both feeder schools to Redwood). Numerous teachers in the Tamalpais Union High School District embed standards-based grading practices into their classrooms. Branson High School is a part of a nationwide consortium looking to end A-F grading in high school. 

    How does standards-based grading prepare students for High School, College, and Careers? 
    By giving students ownership of their learning, standards-based grading gives students a more meaningful, realistic learning experience. Standards-based grading teaches students self-advocacy skills necessary to achieve in college and/or career settings. Based upon work done by Marzano, Guskey, Pickering, Reeves, Popham, Wiggins, Stiggins, O’Connor, and Brookhart, standards-based grading has increased achievement. Research on standards-based grading has shown that students learn the content on a deeper level and perform better in college when exposed to effective standards-based instruction and grading.

    Click here to read a letter of support of Standards-Based Grading from Redwood High School.