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I am doing research on standards based grading systems used in US
schools. Do you know what percentage of secondary schools in the US use
SBG? I imagine that 90% or so of school districts still use tradtional,
percentage based "academic" grades. Am I close?



Alexander, I am sorry to have to say that I do not know the answer to your question
although I think your 90% is probably a reasonable estimate. I find it surprising that so
many high schools cling to percentages when the two most highly regarded high school
programs - IB and AP - only use levels.
I would like to know how you are defining "standards-based grading?" While I agree 'pure'
sbg would not result in traditional letter grades, I believe that schools can do sbg and then
use letter grades as the summary symbols if that is what their community demands. What
the symbols mean is more important than the symbols.


Vincent Turner's


I too am conducting research into SBG. I would like to know, with such a low percentage of
schools utilizing this method of grading, how do you change the culture to embrace this
practice? I had thought of piloting the practice with a small group of teachers and
comparing results with a group of teachers using traditional methods, but also thought of
the confusion this may cause amongst teachers. Are there webinars available or real-time
web PD to help drive this process?

The Grade Doctor's


Hi Vincent, I think your idea of piloting and comparing is a good idea. There are webinars that have ben recoded by Educational Research Newsletter out of Maine, there is video of me on the PowerTeacher website, there is a dvd with my "Repair Kit" book, and there is an online course presented by me and Damian Cooper available from Knowledge Delivery Systems. There is a link to the latter on the home page of this web site. I hope at least one of these will meet your needs.

Alex Carter's



I am now a doctoral candidate at Walden University. I was a high school principal for last 8
years in two very affluent and high-performing high schools, but this year I have an
incredible opportunity to dedicate a year to get my dissertaion done (which I found to be
impossible as a practicing HS principal).

When I first heard R. Lynn Canady speak about grading and assessment in 1998 as a high
school history teacher it changed my view about how and why we grade. I continued to
read and learn all I could on the subject (Guskey, Brookhart, Marzano, Stiggins, Reeves,
O'Connor (of course), et. al), and when I was asked to be the principal of my first school I
tried to begin the discussion about SBG right away. I was a very young principal (32 yrs
old) and it was a dissaster. No one even wanted to talk about SBG with me and - it was a
very traditional East coast high school - and they looked at me like I was speaking Chinese
when I talked about how ineffective the traditional grading system was.

Then I moved to Telluride, Colorado to become the principal of the small high performing
high school there. This school district had a reputation of innovation and willingness to try
new things. Here we did both a rather radical experiential learning progam and moved
towards standards-based grading . This was a really a great assignment for me and I
worked with great people, but even here the results were mixed.

I found that the teachers there they were much more willing to talk about the idea of SBG,
and most would agree that it was a better system - but there was still great resistence to
truly getting a critical mass to change their grading practices in reality.

We broke the content into clear learning targets for each grading period; we reduced the
time between reporting (from quarters to "hexters) {the teachers HATED this --> "its just
more grading!!!" they said - so went back to quarters in year 3}; and began assigning two
grades per reporting period to each students - (1) an "academic" grade that was intended
to report what the student KNOWS and is ABLE TO DO relative to the learning goals; and (2)
an "affective" grade that was to report students learing and interpersonal behaviors that we
believed were also important to report - but NOT to include in the academic report so not
to muddy the water. Only the academic grade went into calculating GPA and colleges only
cared about that, so it wasn't hard to get our kids into great schools (very important to any
program from this community).

We worked on this for 4 years. I have to admit that for some teachers no true change ever
occured. They went along with the new report card format, but they continued assigning
"tasks" that largely resulted in "omnibus grades" instead of clear standards-based
assessments which informed instruction and learning. Other teachers made a real change
in their practice.

I think I rushed into the change. I should have spent a year or two really educating the
faculty about the problem and the solution. My dissertation is focused on developing a
model for school leaders to assess the stages of concern of their staff to inform the leader
if the faculty is ready for change to SBG. I will use the SEDL's CBAM - SoCQ. For Ch. 1 of
my study, I want to be able to discribe the need for the study, so I'm looking for that
statistic (how many secondary schools still use traditional grading systems). This is very,
very hard to find. I have a stat from the College Board that says 91%, but that is from
1998. Surely more have adopted SBG by now!....but maybe not. It is HARD to lead this
type of change!

Thanks anyway,

The Grade Doctor's


Alex, thanks for sharing your interesting story. I am afraid I do not know the answer to your question as the information I have is similar to the figures you quoted. I am not sure if anyone has the answer to your question but people like Tom Guskey, Douglas Reeves and Bob Marzano would be worth a try. Good luck with your dissertation.