frequently asked questions

How does a standards based grading system compare to a system using letter grades such as A, B, C, D, and F?

The two systems provide very different information.  Letter grades represent an average score of all skills and concepts by combining how well the student met a teacher’s expectations, how the student performed on assignments and tests, how much effort the teacher believes the student put in, and how the student is doing in comparison to other classmates. Letter grades do not tell parents which skills their child has mastered or whether he or she is working at grade level. Letter grades may include both academic and nonacademic factors. In contrast, standards based grades provide information only on the specific skills and concepts a student has mastered and those he or she is still working on. Nonacademic factors, such as behavior, work habits, and class participation are reported separately from the academic standard proficiency level.

Is a “4” the same thing as an “A”?

A “4” is not equivalent to an “A”. Remember, a mark of “3” indicates that a student is meeting grade-level expectations with independence and excellence. With high and challenging expectations, a “3” is exactly where a student should be by the end of the year.

Why are all the learning targets not listed on the report card?

A standards based report card is not the same as a list of standards. Although a student receives grades for all of the ICS Learning Targets for his/her grade level subjects, the report card summarizes the standard strands for each grade level.  A full list of learning targets for each grade level and subject area can be found at the ICS website under “Culture and Academics” (  Additionally, you can access all of your child’s grades for every learning target through your family PowerSchool account. 

What examples of assessments do teachers use to assign grades?

With a standards based approach, teachers evaluate student learning in a variety of ways using classroom observations and classwork, along with formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments, such as homework, quizzes, and pre-assessments, are used to check for understanding, set goals, and inform instruction throughout the learning process.  Summative assessments, such as unit tests, rubrics, and performance assessments, are used to evaluate learning at the end of a unit or project. The combination of these pieces of evidence, provides a more detailed picture of student progress towards grade level expectations.  Only summative assessments are used for grading purposes.

How do I help my child “get a 4?”

“Getting a 4” is not about what more a student does. It is what a student knows, and at what level he/she extends what he/she knows to a higher level of skill and application.  Extra credit does not exist in a standards based instructional program; however, many opportunities are provided for students to demonstrate proficiency on a learning target.  A student who receives a “4” is characterized by self-motivation and the ability to apply skills with consistent accuracy, independence, and a higher level of quality.

What ineffective grading practices will be eliminated utilizing standards based learning and assessment?

  • Point penalties for late work, effort, or attendance
  • Extra credit points for things unrelated to standards
  • Assigning group scores when students engage in cooperative learning
  • Curving class scores or grades
  • Averaging student scores
  • Assigning zeros to student work
  • Grading homework

Does attendance, effort, and completion of homework actually “count”?

Yes, those things are important. However, they should not be graded. These are behaviors, not learning targets. As a result, teachers should build work readiness skills, task completion, and due dates as student success skills and provide feedback on assignments, projects, assessments, and rubrics.

How often can parents/guardians expect to receive a student report card?

Teachers in grades 4K-8th Grade will provide report cards for all students on a quarterly basis.

In addition, conferences with the parent/guardian are held at regularly scheduled times during the school year. Parents/guardians will receive notification of conferences from the school their child attends and are encouraged to contact their child’s teacher any time they have questions or concerns.