A simple way of explaining traditional grading and learning vs the Standards-Based classroom is to think of a glass and a pitcher of water. Say the glass will hold the exact amount of water contained in the pitcher. When you go to pour that water into the glass you spill 15% of the water onto the floor. Can you recover that 15%? No, it is spilled, gone, lost.
Traditional grading is very similar to this, if points were lost on a test, quiz, project, or on homework, those points are now gone and have a negative outcome on the final grade even if the student, during the grading period, learns and masters the material being covered. If education is the focus, shouldn't the outcome be a measure of said learning?
Stephanie Pinkin, in her article "Putting Standards-Based Grading Into Action" provided another way of looking at it.
- SBG reports levels of mastery more current than those in traditional grading practices. Grades are entirely flexible—not a single number is set in stone, and the numbers constantly adjust up and down as students conquer and wrestle with new skills and content. When students, parents, or other stakeholders see a grade report from my classroom, they can count on seeing an evaluation of students’ most current knowledge.
This will cause the shift from a discussion on "how to improve the grade?" to a discussion of "What skills and standards is my student struggling with and how can we help them show mastery in this standard?"
With Standards-Based Grading, it is the goal that students will practice and work on a standard under the tutelage of the teacher. When the teacher feels that students have mastered a skill, they are assessed. Future assessments will continue to check for the previous skills and cognition of the learning in the classroom. Preferably through a high-level skills assessment and artifact creation (paper, assessment, and projects). Ways to demonstrate the higher level skills can be found on the Depth of Knowledge Wheel created by Dr. Norman Webb. The wheel to the right is version 2.0 that includes apps and resources that will allow for those skills to be demonstrated.