Standards-Based Report Cards

Freehold Township Schools

How did we get here?

Freehold Township School District uses Standards-Based Report Cards in grades K-5. Beginning in 2015, our district began the transition to Standards-Based Report Cards. This work was grounded upon the belief that traditional report cards did not fully communicate what students were expected to know and be able to do as set forth by a set of standards.

As part of the transition process, a district committee inclusive of staff, administrators and parents was formed. The goal of the committee’s work was to create a more valuable home-school communication tool. The committee examined the traditional approach to grading and researched best practices in standards-based reporting aligned with grade level state standards in order to build the report cards. Training was provided to all teachers to support the roll-out of Standards-Based Reporting practices and Report Cards. Parent informational sessions were presented at Board of Education meetings and building-based PTO meetings across the district. Here is a link to the updated 2021 presentation.

Currently in New Jersey, the set of standards being assessed are known as the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS). The implementation of this type of reporting has become the norm not only locally, but nationally. Students, teachers and parents/guardians benefit from the use of Standards-Based Report Cards which state what is expected in the academic content areas, and how well the student is progressing towards his/her grade level standards for those areas. Our FTS K-5 staff are proud of how well we know our learners and the specificity with which we can provide feedback regarding our students’ growth and achievement. Together with Standards-Based Report Cards we can continue to strengthen our home-school partnerships and ultimately support the growth & achievement of our students.

What is the purpose of report cards?

Report Cards provide accurate information and feedback to students and their families on a student’s progress toward meeting grade level standards.

What is a grade level standard?

Learning standards are concise, written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education.

Learning standards describe educational objectives- i.e., what students should have learned by the end of a course, grade level, or grade span.

What is a Standards-Based Report Card?

A standards-based report card lists the most important skills students should learn in each subject as delineated by grade level standards.

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Research from Barbara Blackburn & Rick Wormeli tells us that a grade represents a clear and accurate indicator of what a student knows and is able to do against a defined standard.

When looking at the graphic above, let’s focus on the keywords when considering traditional report cards and standards-based report cards: knows and is able to do.

Traditional grading practices combine behaviors and student participation with an average score of student attempts toward mastery of standards. Traditional grades take into account missing assignments and may include penalties for time taken when learning and mistakes made along the way. A student receives a number or letter grade on the report card.

With Standards-Based grading, instead of letter grades, students receive marks (indicators) showing how well skills within a standard have been mastered. The marks are numbers representing whether students approach, meet, or exceed each standard. This feedback is beneficial for students, their parents and teachers as it informs instructional decisions regarding the student. A student receives an indicator aligned to specific information about his or her strengths and those areas still needing to be developed within a grade level standard.

  • Effort, behavioral and work or study habits are assessed separately on an Executive Functioning Rubric. These are skills important for parents to keep tabs on even if these characteristics aren't included in the assessment of the student's academic skills.
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What does each number mean?

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Another way to consider the practice of Standards-Based Grading is to compare with learning real-world tasks. As depicted in the graphic below, meeting a grade level standard is like riding a bike independently! When a learner approaches a standard, necessary scaffolds remain in place as progress toward independence is made. When a learner exceeds the standard, or performs stunts, instruction and content may be differentiated or enriched.

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How Do I Talk To My Child About His/Her Report Card?

Celebrate your child's progress on the grade-level learning continuum and consider asking him/her these questions:

What are you most proud of this marking period?

What did you do well? What did you learn?

Can you share some of your work?

What can you work on to continue to grow your understanding?

What are some things you can do to keep learning?

What goal will you set going forward?

With their teachers, students are familiar with grade level standards and talking about their learning using similar questions and learning progressions.

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