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Rangeview studentsQ:  What is Standards-Based Grading?
A: Standards-Based Grading is a refined way of reporting what students know and how they demonstrate their learning of state content standards.

Q:  What is the purpose of Standards-Based Grading?
A: The purpose of Standards-Based Grading is to align grading with the state content standards as measured by consistent and accurate student achievement data and common criteria for grading.

Q:  What is the goal of Standards-Based Grading?
A: The primary goal of SBG is to better communicate what each student knows and is able to do according to state content standards and separately assess the influence of positive and consistent work habits on student learning.

Q:  How does Standards-Based Grading work?
A: Traditional grading averages all of the work and other subjective factors that a student has done over a semester.  SBG removes extraneous factors and solely focuses on proficiency. Standards-Based Grading assesses a student’s overall work and their most recent work so it really tells us what a student has learned and what they now know rather than what they knew walking into the class.

Q:  Why did we change to Standards-Based Grading?
A: According to the Aurora Public Schools VISTA 2015 Strategic Plan, within the Achievement goals, we will provide report cards that are standards-based by August 2009 for middle schools and August 2011 for high schools. We have successfully implemented these goals and now have SBG for all of our elementary and secondary schools.

We successfully implemented Standards-Based Grading in our elementary schools beginning in 2001, in our middle schools in 2009 and in all of our high schools in January 2012. 

By moving to this standards-based reporting system at both the elementary and secondary school levels, APS has expanded upon our ability to report out on what students know and are able to do toward the standard.

Q: What will happen to APS students who transfer to other districts who don’t use a Standards Based Grading system?  How will their GPA be factored?
A: The way that we calculate grade point averages will not change. So SBG will not affect students who transfer to other districts or students who apply for college.

Q:  How does this differ from traditional letter grades?
A: Standards-based grading reports tell us what students have actually learned and know. Standards-based grading measures students’ knowledge of grade-level content over time by reporting the most recent, consistent level of performance.  So, a student might struggle in the beginning of a course with new content, but then learn and demonstrate proficient performance by the end of the course.

For example:  In traditional grading, the student’s performance for the whole quarter would be averaged and early quiz scores that were low would be averaged together with proficient performance later in the course resulting in a lower grade.  In standards based grading, a student who reaches proficiency would be reported proficient and the grade would reflect current performance level.

In addition, traditional grading often includes other subjective factors like attendance, effort, and attitude, which might influence the grade positively or negatively.  In standards based grading, we will report proficiency and work habits separately in order to give a more accurate report of student progress.

The new APS Standards-Based grading system will provide two different reports: One will tell us what students know compared to the standards and the other will assess the more subjective factors like participation and effort. In high school, letter grades will be used for academic achievement.  Work habits will be communicated on report cards but will not be reported on the students’ transcript.

Q: What other school districts in the Denver-Metro area have Standards-Based Grading?
A: Douglas County school district.

Q: Who has been involved in the process?
A: APS staff members have been focused on every aspect of implementing Standards-Based Grading in our district:

  • APS researched a secondary standards-based reporting system to align grading and standards as measured by consistent and accurate student achievement data and common criteria for grading.
  • APS Led and supported the continuous and systematic alignment with the entire leadership and feedback groups.
  • APS ensured the alignment on the end result with the VISTA 2015 vision.
  • APS made final recommendations to the superintendent and implemented SBG fully in all of our middle schools in August 2009 and in all of our high schools beginning in January 2012.

Also, teams of secondary teachers, known as Curriculum Standards Groups, began the work on prioritizing benchmarks within the content standards of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. These teams also determined evidence that show students have met the standards. An additional team of teachers, known as the Work Habits Group, determined specific work habits, performance indicators, and a grading rubric to separately report out on the work habits of students.

The work of these groups was challenging and rewarding. In our process of aligning and prioritizing benchmarks to our district pacing guides and state standards, we revised our Action Plan as needed for the implementation of secondary standards-based grading district wide.

Parents and students from each of our elementary and secondary sites were also involved in the process in order to provide them with information and gather important feedback.  

Q: When did Standards-Based Grading go into effect?
A: Implementing SBG district-wide was an multi-year process that included teachers, principals, students, parents and district staff.

We successfully implemented Standards-Based Grading in our elementary schools beginning in 2001. 

To meet the VISTA 2015 goal of adding standards-based grading by August 2009 for all of our middle schools and January 2012 for all of our high schools, we started with a research and development group that set the goals and parameters for SBG. We also developed a work habits group that determined how we would grade subjective factors such as attendance, participation, engagement, effort and homework.

We also formed elementary, middle and high school curriculum standard groups that determined how to define what student knowledge and work demonstrated each state standard.

Lastly, we formed a group to develop report cards and grade books and developed a professional development plan to make sure all staff were trained how to use this new system.  Since August 2009 for middle schools and January 2012 for high schools, all courses are now using standards-based grading and reporting.

Q: What is next in the process?
A: Developing Standards-Based Grading is a continually evolving process. We have the following processes in place to continually monitor and update SBG at our schools. We continually work on SBG in the following ways:

  • Evaluate and update common evidence that students have met the standards.
  • Update feedback loops through user groups at various sites.
  • Support professional development through district and site-specific groups.
  • Evaluate and update Standards-Based Report Cards and Grade Books.
  • Evaluate and update our Evaluation Plans.
  • Evaluate and update grade-based reporting through gradual levels of implementation.





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