Conferences and Workshops
Ask the Grade Doctor
Contact Me

Ask The Grade Doctor

Full Question Detail

Return to All Questions


I apologize if this question has been asked before, but I am exhausted
of reading through questions continually asking you to calculate grades
or determine if a teacher is fair in their grading policies. I think you
provide a great service for the users that are using this page to ask
“substantive questions about grading and reporting philosophy, policy,
procedures, and practices.”

I am teaching in a district that uses “standards based grading.” And I
put it in quotation marks because I feel that it only utilizes a small
portion of the standards based grading concept. The district began to
allow students to retake summative assessments. Before completing a
retake, students had to display that they understood the concept in some
manner to the instructor. Our district began to use formative and
summative assessments to provide students with an overall grade (0% on
formative and 100% on summative). And basically that is the only part of
our grading policy to change. Our report card still reports: Math – 85%,
Science – 79%, etc. Summative assessments still are given over
sections/chapters, projects, or written papers, while grades are
provided in percentages. Every teacher has always had difficulty under
standards based grading with students completing assignments outside of
class. Our school has 4 grading terms and once a student receives a
grade for the term the grade is not changed.

I feel like with standards based grading each summative assessment
should be graded by individual standards that are covered. And the
student’s scores on each of those standards can be modified at any point
during the school year based upon their current knowledge level. This
theoretically sounds great, but high schools have to report GPAs for
athletic participation and college admissions. What have been your
experiences with high schools that need to periodically provide reports
to other institutions?

As a report card grade, do you recommend using a percentage scale, 4.0
scale, or alpha scale? If a student receives scores on each individual
standard, how can a final grade be calculated for a report card? Would
the individual standard scores be averaged for a final grade or do you
suggest another method?

Ideally, I believe that students should master standards and course
topics before being allowed to move onto the next item in the class.
Even though it may take more time than one school year to completely
master a course, the student will have learned what they need to be
successful. I think this type of system would intrinsically motivate
students to complete out of class assignments and study material to
master content on the first summative assessment. However, with our
current school year from August to May and student promotion based upon
a grade at the end of May, students are not intrinsically motivated to
complete out of class work even though they know it will help them learn
more of the material. I feel that one suggestion to combat students not
completing out of class assignments would be to add an ‘Effort’ or
‘Citizenship’ grade to the report card that would be included in the
overall high school gpa. I was thinking that all of the student’s
courses could be reported into one ‘Effort’ grade. Homework is not
ideally included in a student’s grade, but with this method it will not
be included in the math, science, English, etc. grades. Therefore, the
inclusion of an ‘Effort’ grade will still allow the school to provide
accurate reporting on a student’s knowledge in their courses, while also
providing an accurate report about their non-academic skills. I would
think providing prospective colleges and employers with information
about a person’s non-academic skills would be quite helpful. What
suggestions do you recommend to help teachers get more out of class
assignments from students? Do you have any suggestions for reporting
non-academic skills on report cards? Do you have any good examples of
standards based grading report cards?

Do you have any other suggestions or resources for our district to fully
implement a true standard based grading system?

Thank you for your time and assistance.

Concerned Teacher


I would agree with you that the changes in grading at your school are nor standards-based
grading (sbg), but they are steps in the right direction. You are correct that "with standards
based grading each summative assessment should be graded by individual standards that
are covered. And the student’s scores on each of those standards can be modified at any
point during the school year based upon their current knowledge level." This does not
prevent the determination of a subject grade and a gpa when needed. Many high schools,
especially in OR and ME are doing this.
I recommend completely eliminating the use of percentages and the use of an integer scale
(e.g., 1-4) as a grade for each standard and then using a logic rule to determine subject
grades if they are needed, e.g., mostly 4's and nothing below a 3 is an A.
I agree that the ideal would be for students not to move on till they are proficient in each
standard, but I disagree that an "effort" grade should be part of a subject grades; grades
should be based only on achievement and the behaviors you value should be reported
separately. For a good example of a HS sb report card look for the Medford HS report card
on the Oregon education dept. website. Good resources are #sblchat at ( PM EDT on
Wednesdays, my "Repair Kit" book and Rick Wormeli's book "Fair Isn't Always Equal."