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 they are 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 that they are 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 their 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 are listed within the Course Overviews here on our website. Additionally, you can access all of your child’s grades for every learning target through your family’s 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 they extend what they know 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 about Grade Point Averages?
A standards-based system does not translate directly to a traditional grade point average. Therefore, students at ICS will not be evaluated with a grade point average. ICS will still provide students and families with the necessary documentation for a successful high school application. In the event a high school requires a GPA for admittance, ICS will communicate with the high school and work with individual students and families to ensure the needed information is provided. Students will still be able to qualify for ICS scholarships based on the criteria of a standards based rating system.
Assessment: Any method used to evaluate, measure, and document the academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, or educational needs of students.
Benchmark Assessment: An assessment used to determine if specific, key developmental and/or academic milestones have been met at specific times during the year. (math facts, reading level, etc.)
College and Career Ready: Focuses on students having critical thinking skills, communicating effectively, collaborating with others, and solving real work problems in additional to having knowledge in academic content areas. (Wisconsin Department of Instruction – College and Career Readiness)
Common Assessments: A form of assessments used to ensure that same content (grade level, department, or content area) performance evaluations are consistent, reliable, and effective. This allows for comparison across classrooms, courses, and learning experiences. Common assessments share the same format and are administered in consistent ways.
Course Overview – A curriculum document that provides the foundation of an equitable, consistent, school-wide, standards based instructional program. The Course Overviews provide clear, measurable learning outcomes based on standards and learning targets and outline what a child should know and be able to do at each grade level for every subject.
Curriculum: Intentionally designed set of learning experiences to introduce, support, and challenge each child’s understanding of articulated standards. The curriculum is the relationship among standards, learning targets, learning activities, success criteria, valid and reliable assessments, and teacher’s and students’ utilization of strategies and resources to build knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
Descriptive Feedback: Specific, formative information provided to learners in the form of written comments or conversations that help the student understand what is needed to improve. It is specific, timely, and communicated in language that is understood by the learner. It opens the opportunity for mistakes to be viewed as learning opportunities when time is provided for students to take action.
Essential Question: A question that lies at the heart of a discipline or a curriculum and is utilized by teachers to promote student inquiry. Essential questions are 1) Open-ended – it typically will not have a single, final, and correct answer; 2) Thought-provoking and intellectually engaging, often sparking discussion and debate; 3) Calls for higher-order thinking, such as analysis, inference, evaluation, prediction, and cannot be effectively answered by recall alone; 4) Points toward important, transferable ideas within and across disciplines; 5) Raises additional questions and sparks further inquiry; 6) Requires support and justification, not just an answer; 7) Recurs over time; the question can and should be revisited again and again. (Essential Questions by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins – 2013)
Formative Assessment: An assessment or learning activity designed to inform the teacher and learner about areas of strengths and needs for improvement related to the learning targets. A formative assessment is not used for grading purposes, but instead used to guide and modify next steps in teaching and learning. Examples of formative assessments include unit pre-assessments, homework, quizzes, mid-unit check-ups, and student self-assessments.
Grade: The symbol (number or letter) reported at the end of a period of time as a summary statement of student performance. (Ken O’Connor – 2013)
Homework: Intended to be formative practice, whether guided or independent, that is not an assessment of learning. The purpose of practice is for a student to improve their understanding. Homework may be scored, rated according to a rubric, and supported with feedback; however, it should not be counted in the grade as students are still practicing and emerging in their understanding of content standards.
Learning targets: Statements deconstructed from grade-level standards into short-term goals of learning that clearly state what students are expected to know and do at the end of the lesson. Learning targets are measurable objectives from which all lessons, activities, and assessments are aligned. They are written in student-friendly language – “I can…” and communicated to students and families. Learning targets are posted in the classroom, referred to before, during, and after each lesson, and visible on assessments to show progress.
Performance Task: Any learning activity or assessment that asks students to perform to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding, and proficiency.
Portfolio: A purposeful collection of significant samples of work accompanied by clear criteria for performance which evidence effort, progress or achievement.
Pre-Assessments: A type of formative assessment that is administered before students begin a lesson, unit, course, or academic program. Students are not expected to know the academic content or skills evaluated by pre-assessments. Pre-assessments serve three primary functions 1) to establish baseline data to monitor and measure learning; 2) to inform teacher’s efforts to best align curriculum and instruction to students’ learning needs; 3) to clarify for students as to where they are now in relation to learning targets and success criteria for next levels of learning.
Proficiency levels: Indicators of student proficiency in achievement relative to standards and learning targets. A student who is proficient consistently demonstrates understanding of core skills and concepts and meets performance expectations
Rubric: An formative or summative assessment tool that articulates different levels of demonstrated proficiency as related to the learning targets.
Score: The number or letter given to any student test or performance that may contribute to the later determination of a grade. (Ken O’Connor – 2013)
Standards: Concise, written descriptions that serve as goals for teaching and learning in the classroom. Standards specify what students should know and are expected to learn in each grade and each subject area. Standards communicate to students, parents, educators, and citizens what students should learn at a given point, and become the basis for the way teachers are trained, what they teach, and what students are assessed on to measure if learning goals are met. Locally elected school boards adopt state and/or national academic standards in each subject area to best serve their local community.
- Content standards describe the knowledge that students should be able to understand.
- Process standards describe the procedural skills that students should be able to do.
Standard Strand: A grouping of related standards that are common to one area of content.
Standards Based: A system that measures student outcomes relative to standards.
Standards-Based Grade: A symbol (number or letter) that represents a student’s demonstration attainment of standards.
Standards Based Grading: Reporting the most recent, and best, evidence of a student’s individual understanding and/or demonstration of the standards and learning targets as related to success criteria. This is in contrast to traditional grading systems that focus on accumulation or averaging of points obtained from homework, quizzes, and tests across each grading/reporting period.
Standards-Based Learning: Utilization of standards and learning targets to prioritize, design, and align curriculum, instruction, assessment, and feedback across courses, units, and lessons.
Standards-Based Report Card: Provides a clear picture of a student’s achievement on specific learning targets. Regular, timely communication to families provides a basis of information and feedback about academic achievement and student success skills in order to set goals and improve student performance.
Student Success Skills: Parts of feedback or communication to students/families related to student behaviors that may affect learning. These include participation, work habits, effort, respect, and responsibility. Student success skills are communicated on quarterly report cards, but are not included within summative assessment or course grades.
Success Criteria: Explicitly states what quality performance looks like as related to the learning targets so students and teachers can assess work using a shared language of quality. Success criteria answers the question “What do I need to do to demonstrate an understanding?”
Summative Assessments: A valid, reliable measure of a student’s understanding and skills of articulated standards, learning targets, and success criteria at the end of a learning sequence. Summative assessments are given at the end of a unit or conclusion of a specific instructional period. Summative assessment results are often recorded as scores that are then factored into a student’s grade.