Addressing the Myths of Standards-Based Grading

With the Standards-Based Grading transition, there are several myths that often come to light that concerns students, parents, and the community alike. Through research and time spent implementing SBG, most of the myths have been found to be based out of lack of understanding or fear. This page addresses these myths and will hopefully alleviate some of the concerns that exist.

Myth #1

"I have heard that Standards-Based Grading is the elimination of grades in schools.

Standards-Based is not the elimination of grades. It does eliminate the traditional grading structure of averaging the grades based on points earned divided by points available or averaging percentages in categories (assessments, quizzes, homework, etc.) and then assigning a percentage to each category that then applies to the final grade. However, grades are a more comprehensive analysis of what students know and can actually do within standards-based.

Myth #2

"I have heard that standards-based grading will hurt my student's chances of getting into college because it is not the traditional grading scale."

This is a fallacy. Most colleges have an adaptive analysis that they use to determine the validity of the applicant. Several colleges, including the likes of Harvard, prefer students that come from an established SBG district as they know what the students can do in comparison to subjective grading practices.

As part of the research for this project the following email was sent to multiple Colleges and Universities in and out of the state of Michigan. Their responses are included below.

I hope that this finds you doing well. My name is _______ ________ and I am writing to you with the intentions/desires to discover how your admittance department matriculates students from schools that use the Standards Based Grading System? As part of a graduate course, I am designing and creating a web-page for our school that besides presenting your answers, it also answers the question, “How does an alternative grading method affect the evaluation process and does it help or hurt the applicant in any way?”

Honestly, I couldn't give you much information on how this affects the matriculation/orientation process, because my purview begins and ends at admissions.

However, I can say that we as an office have a holistic review process. I know it seems like I'm just re-stating what's on the website, but it's true. There are many schools out there that have standards-based grading (it seems to be exploding in New England), written evaluation based (no numbers, no letters, just paragraphs of comments), 100 point scales, 10 point scales, 7 point scales, etc... We will simply take the transcript that is given to us and recalculate and unweight the grades. If they receive an "overall" grade for English/Language Arts, then odds are we would just use the overall grade versus the breakdown (comprehension, interpretation, discussion, etc.). Therefore, I comfortably tell parents that their students can be evaluated on any grading system, and we will find a way to norm it to compare to other students within the school. Oftentimes parents don't realize that we evaluate applications against the other applicants from that specific high school. So for example we would never compare students from Kenowa Hills against students from Ada High School, etc. So even if your school/district is the only one in the area/state doing this, it will not hurt your students in the admissions process.

I hope this helps, but if you have any other questions, please let me know.


Stanford: - Legal Office.

Main Number: (650) 723-2091

We receive applications from students from around the world who are taking a range of curricula. Grading systems also vary by point scales, weighted and unweighted GPA, as well as Standards Based Grading Systems. We have no preference for the kind of curriculum or grading system a school uses. Students who are admitted and choose to matriculate must provide a midyear and final transcript from their final year of secondary school as well as proof of graduation.

We will typically convert a high school GPA to a 4.00 system (we do allow weighted GPA's though). If a schools standard GPA is based on a 11 point system, then we would divide the GPA by 11 and then multiply by 4 to convert to a 4. pt system. We will also factor in the student's ACT or SAT score when making the admissions decision.

If a school does not provide any GPA (such as a Rudolf Steiner school), then we will make the admissions decision based on the teacher comments and the ACT or SAT scores. There will not be a GPA entered into the system for the student.

I hope this helps.

Mark Provoast

Associate Director of Admissions

Michigan Tech

Zero effect on admissions. Test Scores and classes taken along with the students success in said classes is one of the key factors in the matriculation process. GPA then follows. Letters of recommendation and references are also important. If the grading model helps the student learn, then that is more important than the way learning is communicated through a grade.

How does Standards-Based Grading affect the matriculation process at MSU?

A: Our admission counselors have conversion methods to translate into the point system regardless of scale types.

Q: Could you share the conversion method?

A:Unfortunately, it is a training that is not available to the public.

Q: Does SBG hurt the matriculation process for SBG Students?

A: No. That does not affect the review process at all.


"I hear that standards-based Grading makes everyone "average".

This view is often connected to a lack of understanding of how the Standards-based grading process works along with with a lack of clarity within the evaluation tools/rubrics used for each standard. The more clarity that can be provided through language and rubric development, the easier it is for students, parents, and the community to understand.

Myth #4

"My Child tells me that standards-based grading makes it so laziness is acceptable and homework doesn’t matter in their classes."

One of the key factors in Standards-Based Grading is the necessity to grade summative assessments only as they are the best platform that holistically assesses standard fluency. However, that does not mean that homework is not a valued part of the classroom and learning experience. Just like in sports, you practice how you play. Similarly, the classroom requires students to practice the knowledge they have acquired. In doing so, they can affirm their understanding of the material if they are correct. If the student makes a mistake, it can allow for the educator to assess where the mistake was made, reteach the material in a manner to prevent more mistakes in the future, and then affirm the correct outcome once complete.

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