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A shift from traditional grading to standards-based grading

Dr. K.Veena Latha

Dr. K.Veena Latha
Associate Professor,
St. Ann’s College of Education,

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” Goodhart’s Law

The traditional grading system relies on the grades that students get on each assessment method. These include quizzes, projects, and long tests. All assessments are graded, recorded and students pass or fail each assessment based on a percentage system. This poses a problem because the grades of the students no longer provide an accurate representation of how much they have learned from class. On the other hand, the standards-based grading system relies on the mastery of learning targets and performance standards. The students pass or fail assessments based on rubrics that have been given to them ahead of time. The students are given multiple opportunities to practice the skills that they should master in class. Practice assignments, which are meant to accelerate learning and mastery of skills, are not graded. Instead, only the most recent assessments will be the basis of the student’s final grade because these provide evidence of mastery of learning standards. The students become intrinsically motivated to demonstrate mastery of competencies, improve their skills and can track their progress. Thereby instruction becomes more engaging and meaningful, quality education becomes a standard and parents understand the meaning of grades better.

When focused on what students actually know and don’t know teachers and stakeholders realize the need to identify deficiencies in a student’s learning, using these insights they adjust instruction. Students can work to achieve mastery prior to moving on to more complicated skills and concepts. Progression is now based on understanding and readiness. We need to shift to more actionable assessment data to collaborate around assessment data to support resource sharing, instructional best practices, and larger learning trends, look into end-of-level testing to alternatives that reduce assessment seat times and improve the quality of actionable data and use technology in the assessment process as students are increasingly comfortable with the myriad ways in which technology allows them to gain and demonstrate skills and understanding. 

Shifting from a traditional grading approach to a standards-based grading approach does not happen overnight. Whether it’s the mindset, the technology, the practice, or something yet unseen, what is certain is that change will continue to impact our teachers and students in the classroom. When it comes to changes in assessment, we should always seek to understand the needs of each student. Most importantly we must always remember that if we solicit data from students, we have a moral obligation to use that data to directly benefit those students.

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