Solutions for Standards-Based Grading

  • Posted on: 25 February 2014
  • By: Tina McCoy

The transition to standards-based education has been underway for years, so why has it been so difficult for school systems to implement standards-based grading? One reason, I believe, is that educators inadvertently underestimate the magnitude of the change in terms of tradition.  Letter grades, and the traditional way in which most students are still graded, is deeply ingrained in our culture. Parents, teachers, community members... all of them, as students, were graded using traditional methods. Nearly all colleges continue to use traditional methods of grading.  People don't like change, and it's sometimes harder to 'let go' of traditions than it is to assimilate new skills or knowledge.

The problem is, that in terms of promoting student learning, self-efficacy and motivation traditional grading has many flaws.  Many educational leaders want to make the switch to standards-based grading, but the task seems monumental and destined to meet with resistance.  There are so many 'bugs' to work out of the standards-based grading process. Half-hearted efforts to change grading practices fall short, and what is called standards-based grading ends up being traditional grading in disguise. What is to be done?

Educators considering the adoption standards-based grading should read Practical Solutions for Serious Problems in Standards-Based Grading, edited by Thomas R. Guskey. This user-friendly book gets right to the major challenges of standards-based grading, and offers strategies and solutions to address each one. Guskey explains the misalignment between traditional grading methods and standards-based education. Various authors, experts in their fields, address head-on challenges associated with grading students with disabilities and English language learners.  Legal issues, and strategies for promoting consistency between grades and large-scale academic assessments are also included.  

Practical Solutions for Serious Problems in Standards-Based Grading is recommended for any educator who is contemplating the transition from traditional grading to standards-based grading.  This text is ideal for group reading, as the chapters are manageable in length and conducive to discussion.  I recommend that any school administrator read this book (and others) before leading his or her organization on the journey toward standards-based grading.  Advance knowledge of the challenges that will be faced, after all, can enable leaders to proactively avoid pitfalls and promote a smooth and successful transition to improved practices in grading.