Standards-Based Grading is simply reporting performance on each learning target or skill. In our district,
this will include academic standards, concepts, and practices from the Utah core, as well as the Iron County
essential skills and dispositions defined below by our community (Iron’s Essential Eight Skills and Dispositions).
Each standard or skill will be measured on a scale from one to four as defined by proficiency scales written
by teacher teams. In these proficiency scales, which will be publically visible, the four levels of developing
(score 1), approaching (score 2), proficient (score 3) and mastery (score 4) are defined so that the success
criteria for each level is clear to teachers, parents, and students. A student’s letter grade in secondary
schools will be determined based upon the percentage of these standards that students meet or exceed as described
below (Grade Determination and Reporting)
Grading and reporting learning by standard allows students, teachers, and parents to focus on the learning of
specific curricular and essential skills rather than the chasing of points, or simply completing missing work
to raise an average grade. Grades have traditionally been a representation of several components, including,
but not limited to, the number of assignments completed, tests, and quizzes, extra credit, etc. They are also
represented as an average over time rather than a demonstration of where they are currently, their most recent
level of understanding. This type of grading and reporting falls short for both students and parents if they
are concerned with exactly what a student knows and may not know so students can be prepared for the demands of
college and careers. It emphasizes completion of assignments and point gathering over competency in content and
essential skills. Traditionally, students are held back by previous failures or low scores and without clear next
steps or hope for overcoming these mistakes, will often give up. By contrast, explicit expectations of student
proficiency, opportunities to reassess, and recognizing their progress in specific criteria promotes the feeling
of clarity and confidence, motivating students to achieve at high levels.
The move toward standards-based grading is research-based and modeled after the work of Robert J. Marzano,
Richard DuFour, Tom Schimmer, Phil Warrick, et al. The initial research is based on item response theory vs classical
test theory, with the former having stronger findings, primarily in the area of classification of errors. Iron County
School District has been involved with the PLC process for several years and uses the High-Reliability Schools model
as a guiding framework for school improvement and strategic planning. Standards-based grading is built on the
foundation of safe and collaborative cultures, highly-effective teaching, and guaranteed and viable curriculum in
A survey of nearly 1000 members of our community including business leaders, post-secondary educators, parents, students
and K-12 educators were asked, “What skills are essential for the future success of our graduates?” The top responses
included critical thinking and problem solving, responsibility, communication, creativity, collaboration, resilience,
growth mindset, and financial literacy. Our district strategic planning team opted to use this input and include these
eight skills as elements in our K-12 courses.
Each of our essential skills and dispositions have objective success criteria laid out in a proficiency scale created
by our district committees of teachers who referenced expert literature and SUU’s essential learning outcome rubrics.
Subjective determinations of proficiency in these areas is not appropriate. Teachers are encouraged to assess these
eight by using the proficiency scales within their curriculum and activities they already do in their classes. For
example, when students present their projects they could be assessed on communication and creativity, in addition to
the academic standards, based upon the criteria listed in the grade appropriate proficiency scale. These skills should
be measured somewhat frequently and through multiple means of evidence if they are included as part of a students grade
report so students can act on the feedback to improve and parents are not caught off guard by the results at the end of
The students we are educating today and into the future will be preparing for jobs that may not even exist today?
Information at all levels is literally at their fingertips. When we consider adequate preparation for the future,
we must consider skills that are transferable and consider them as important to teach as our content. If that is
the case, then we also report the learning of these skills in the same way as we report learning on our content.
Many of the essential eight skills are, in themselves, content related, such as critical thinking communication,
collaboration, creativity, and financial literacy. Skills such as responsibility, resilience, and growth mindset
are dispositions that many consider not only essential life skills, but also important to the learning of content
within the classroom. When we value and report on those skills they become important to students, teachers and
parents, and will in fact support the learning of the content. Students that master the content easily, may benefit
from the development of these dispositions where they wouldn’t bother otherwise. If these skills were not valued in
the grade, students may opt not to do homework, pass in assignments late, give up easily, give only minimal effort
instead of best work and other acts of irresponsibility in their studies. Students that struggle with the content,
but have developed the dispositions of responsibility, resilience, and growth mindset may benefit from a grade report
that includes these, rather than one that only values content.
When students move from school to school there are a small set of standards that are common district wide along with
their corresponding proficiency scales to ensure teachers reference the same criteria for scoring. Teachers and schools
have autonomy to add standards beyond these and write the related proficiency scales.
Grades are determined directly from the percentage of standards that have been met or have exceeded expectations (proficient (3)
or mastery (4)). For example, if eight of the ten standards have been met, the percentage shown is 80%, which is a ( B- ). This
focuses students on achieving the expected learning and skills, and moves beyond just the individual assignment scores that have
traditionally made up a grade.
GPA will be determined as it has been traditionally, based on the letter grades entered in all classes. It is the letter grade that
will be determined differently than before, now based on standards met or exceeded. This process will be uniform in all classes so
that parents can more easily advocate for and guide their student’s learning and achievement. Everything else will stay the same so
as not to impact the college entrance process.
See the outline below to compare and contrast the two grading systems.
% Assignment Scores/Points/Average ---> Letter Grade ---> Transcript---> GPA ---> College Acceptance
Standards Based Grading
% of Standards Met or Exceeded ---> Letter Grade ---> Transcript---> GPA ---> College Acceptance
||4.NBT.6 PROFICIENCY SCALE
In addition to score 3 performance, the student demonstrates
indepth inferences and applications that go beyond what was
For example, demonstrate and justify their answer with all the
strategies with proficiency and apply their knowledge with the
The student will
Be able to find whole number quotients and remainders with up
to fourdigit dividends and onedigit divisors, using strategies
based on place value, the properties of operations, and/or the
relationship between multiplication and division.
The student will recognize or recall specific terminology such as:
The student performs basic processes such as:
- Dividend, divisor, quotient, equal groups, remainder, place value.
- Divide using a consistent algorithm with inaccurate results. ie: placement of the remainder, regrouping, basic facts.
|With help, the student demonstrates partial success with score 2 and/or score 3 content.
A report from each of your student’s classes will be available on Mastery Connect. You will be invited to create an account via email at
masteryconnect.com. Once logged in, you will select a class where you will find a list of each of the standards and skills they are being
measured on with an indication of both the score (1,2,3,4) and the associated color (red, yellow, green, blue). When you click to expand
each standard you will see the proficiency scale and success criteria for each level as well as the assessments they have been given in
that standard overtime. You will also see a percentage in the top right hand corner that indicates what percentage of standards they have
met or exceeded. This percentage will be translated into their final letter grade, using the familiar letter grade scale, at the endS of
the term for secondary students only. This report to parents from Mastery Connect, based on standards, should be updated frequently by
teachers so parents are aware of student performance throughout the term.
Students with IEP accommodations should be given grade level instruction and held to the same standard as others unless otherwise indicated
in their IEP’s standard-aligned goals. If a student with an IEP has accommodations, a teacher should make sure that all IEP accommodations
are occuring within the structure of the class. If these accommodations are insufficient, general education teachers will work with special
education teachers on interventions. Students with an IEP may have modifications to their curriculum and expected level proficiency. If this
is the case they should be measured based on these modifications.