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The Transitioning to Standards-Based Grading Issues that individuals face as a student/teacher/parent

Transitions are hard but in order to get better at anything, SHIFT needs to happen. If the focus of education is the learning that each student is experiencing, then the SHIFT to Standards-Based Grading is an important and necessary change. There are three primary issues that negatively affect the shift to standards based grading.

1. The Lack of Communication:

Amelia Harper, in her article “Converting to a Standards-Based Grading Model Requires Careful Planning” states

“Many Educators favor standards-based grading because it provides more useful information that can inform current and future teachers about student strengths and weaknesses... some parents are still reluctant to get on board, especially if they view it as diminishing the perception of student achievement, and thus, bragging rights. Clear Communication is needed to overcome this barrier” ( Harper, 2018).

If the stakeholders in the school do not understand the purpose or reasoning behind the shift away from the traditional grading mode; confusion, frustration, and discord will occur. The traditional grading model has been used since the early 20th century and it is engrained in the educational model. To shift away from it can cause fear and anxiety on many levels for parents and students alike. Ken O’Connor, one of the foremost experts on standards-based grading, addressing the issue of shifting away from the traditional grading model in his article “Four Critical Standards-Based Grading Challenges and Their Solutions”. In standards-based grading,

“Performance standards are the core of assessment and grading, so it is critical that teachers use them consistently and that students and parents understand them. Traditionally, performance standards have consisted of letters linked to percentage ranges (e.g., A = 90-100%, B = 80-89% and so on). These have given only the illusion of precision because teachers are very inconsistent with a 101 level scheme and have generally not been able to explain clearly the differences between the letter grades.” (O’Connor, 2019).

Traditional grading, despite how skilled the educator may be, leaned more towards subjective, non-standard driven outcomes that teachers struggled to explain the negligible differences between the grade levels or percentages. So moving to SBG from the traditional grading model will provide objective standards that students will be assessed on that clearly articulate expectations and skills required to master said skills. Because of this, it is imperative that the leaders in a district that is poised to shift away from traditional grading communicate with parents and students alike. Communication needs to be clear especially on the topics of how the grading process will change, how to analyze the standard reports that they will receive, and finally, understand how the students' progress will be reported out using the conversion model that is selected.

2. The Lack of Understanding:

I remember sitting in my first session at MACUL 2013 and listening to a presenter discussing SBG. I was confused and doubtful of what he said was possible. Flash forward, six years and I am all in for Standards-Based Grading, not because I have to be, but because of the benefits, once you get past the initial shock, far outweighs the time and energy required to change.

When parents first see the Standards-Based Grading grade-book or grade report, it can be overwhelming, confusing, and off-putting. That is why it is important to sit down with someone who understands the grading process and have a conversation to ensure understanding and validation of questions and concerns. If you are wondering how to delineate the grade reports or standards-based grading, the next page titled “Knowing how the Rubric Works” will cover such skills.

3. Adapting to the Change

Barton Goldsmith, PhD. in his article "Adapting to Change" addresses the the issue of change and how to adapt to it stating

Change is constant, so we usually don’t notice the little or the expected changes; it’s when you are caught off-guard that you can get discombobulated. The trick is to know that it is just one of the millions of changes that are going to happen in your life and, good or not so good, do what you can to just roll with it.

If you are concerned or confused, get in contact with your student's instructor, ask them questions, seek out clarity on the issue.

The staff is more than willing to help, but in order to receive help, one must be willing to ask for it.

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