Standards-Based Learning in SLPS

SBL & Grading Updates from the SLPS Academic Office

Here is your one-stop shop for all things Standards-Based Learning and Grading. Here you will find the weekly updates plus some extras. There are videos to help your learning as well as updates specific to SLPS and our rollout of Standards-Based Learning and Grading. Be sure to check back here each week to find out what's next (or what already happened). You will find the link each week in the SLPS Academic Newsletter.

August 13: 2021-2022 SBL&G Is Underway

All Elementary teachers participated in three days of Standards-Based Learning and Grading professional development this week. Teachers went from unpacking standards to planning rigorous standards-driven unit plans. Middle school teachers were also able to begin their SBL & G journey by participating in PD focused on standards. Be sure to check back here each week to learn what is happening around the district regarding SBG!

April 16: “Telling people how wrong they are doesn’t inspire them to be different.” -Tom Schimmer

Take a minute to reflect on all the feedback you have given in the past week. How much of it was about telling someone how wrong they were? How much of it was about providing a replacement behavior? Be sure the feedback you’re giving your students is in the pursuit of them knowing what to do differently the next time rather than just telling them they were wrong. For feedback to be meaningful, it must be actionable. Without information about what to do differently, students can only look back to know something went wrong rather than look forward to what can go right next time.

April 9: What makes a good comment?

Last week, you read about the importance of feedback in the learning process for students. Now, let’s explore what the experts tell us about the best WAY to communicate to students about their “current levels of learning based on standards.” There are four criteria you should use when communicating with students about their learning, according to Matthew Townsley and Nathan Wear in their book Making Grades Matter:

  1. Numbers in the gradebook should reflect understanding of standards rather than assessment task grades.
  2. All standards should derive from state, provincial, or national standards.
  3. The number of standards in the gradebook should be manageable for teachers.
  4. Teachers should rewrite standards so parents and students can understand them.*

*Our Curriculum Specialists have done this work for SLPS teachers, so this is not a needed extra step for our teachers.

April 2: Comments vs. Scores

Students need feedback more than they need grades. Read the research on the importance of comments when grading student work.

March 12: Cult of Pedagogy

This week’s Cult of Pedagogy podcast is all about moving to a Standards-Based Learning and Grading, also known as Mastery-Based, System in your classroom. She offers great resources and extra opportunities for additional learning. If you are still feeling anxious about SBG, check it out. If you are excited about SBG, check it out. We HIGHLY recommend listening to, or reading the transcript, of this week’s podcast. Great stuff!

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March 5: So you’re interested in knowing more about SBG!

We have been getting lots of emails from teachers across the district expressing their interest in knowing more about the Standards-Based Learning and Grading. Here are some places you can go for all things Standards-Based Learning and Grading. There is also a Facebook Group that many of us belong to: “Standards Based Learning and Grading” where some of these gurus regularly post. It is a vibrant community of educators who are learning and growing together!

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February 26: Standards-Based Learning and Grading in SLPS by the Numbers

How is the Standards-Based Learning and Grading Rollout Going? To date, we have:

  • 713 Level One Trained Teachers
  • 133 Level One SBG Certified Teachers
  • 27 Standards-Based Learning and Grading Cohorts in preparation for the 2021-2022 School Year
  • 30 SBG Team Members meeting weekly to ensure a strong rollout
  • 20 Artifact Reviewers ready to provide individual feedback to all 713 Level One Trained Teachers!

Make sure you are reaching out when you have questions, need help or support, and have ideas! We want this to continue to get better and better. With your help we can do this!

February 19: So why ARE we going Standards-Based?

Moving to a Standards-Based Teaching, Learning, and Grading System allows us to truly focus specifically on what our students need in order to learn. Our curriculum in SLPS is aligned to the Missouri Learning Standards. Moving to the SBG system assures a few important things:

  1. Grades mean something now. Parents used to see a simple letter grade. It really did not tell anyone, including the teacher, anything about what the student has and has not learned.
  2. They make sure we are assessing the right thing.
  3. Standards-Based Systems, as we said before, truly create a data-driven classroom. Teacher will know what do adjust and for whom in order to ensure that every child gets what they need in order to master content.
  4. Goals are clear to everyone. It takes a village. If the goals are clear to everyone what a child must know and do, we can all help ensure they get everything they need in order to master it.

(adapted from "Why You Should Switch to Standards-Based Grading)

February 12, 2021: One Powerful Mindset Shift to Make for SBG

It is important that we begin to look at learning standards as happening on a spectrum. Where, at this moment in time, is this student on the spectrum of mastery of the standard? Some students learn faster, some need much more practice, some knew it before you taught it. It doesn’t matter WHEN they get there; only that we understand that they are headed to the same finish line. In our Standards-Based system, a 3 means the student has achieved mastery of the standard. 3 is the goal! This will require you to break away from our current norm of thinking of a 4 as an A, a 3 as a B, etc. Instead, you have to think of a 3 as the goal, a 2 as almost there, a 1 as having some progress toward understanding, and on down. You must break out of your current understanding of grading systems and not try to fit the new way of doing things into the old systems.
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February 5, 2021: Let’s Talk About Shifting From TESTING to ASSESSING

Part of our transition to being Standards-Based requires us to change our vernacular AND our thinking. Tests measure a moment in time, they typically occur with paper and pencil, and they rarely guide the follow-up instruction. Assessments, however, are a living, dynamic part of the educational experience. They serve as barometer checks, communication opportunities, and come in all shapes and sizes. Teachers assess students, so they know what the student has and has not mastered in order to make instructional, scaffolding, and intervention decisions. Spend some time reflecting on whether you give your students tests, or whether you assess your students in order to best educate them tomorrow. Try making some shifts both in the way you think about and in the way you talk about assessing student mastery in your classrooms.

Please be reminded that we have Standards-Based Learning & Grading Professional Development on February 12 for K-2, 3rd, and 4-5th Grade teachers. Check the Professional Development Catalogue to find the right session for you. *3rd Grade teachers who have already achieved their Level 1 SBL&G Badge have been pre-enrolled in their February PD, so you do not have to do anything except check your enrollment for links and details.

January 22, 2021: Rethinking Assessment

If you want to start a personal journey toward a more Standards-Based classroom, you can start with how you use assessment. Frequent formative assessments allow teachers to do a barometer check on each student’s learning progress and adjust their instruction accordingly. Remember, frequent formative assessments do not have to be formal: teacher-made checks for understanding and exit tickets work wonders for standards-based teachers. If your assessment is designed to measure the standard, you will know whether or not your students are mastering that standard. SLPS has provided common formative assessments for each standard to help provide you MAP/EOC style questions to help you measure mastery. Take some time to reflect on how and why you use assessment , of all kinds, in your classroom. Start thinking differently about the things you grade and why you grade them. Are you using it to change the future of your students' learning progress or are you using it to tell them about their past? Try using it to change the future.

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January 15, 2021: Standards-Based Learning & Grading Achievement Level One Superstars!

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What is Happening Now with SBG?

On the February 12 Professional Development Day, we will be offering Standards-Based Learning and Grading professional development to three groups: K-2 Teachers, 3rd Grade Teachers, and 4th-5th Grade Teachers. These professional development sessions are uniquely designed for these particular grade levels and are only open to those teachers (including SPED, ELL, and Regular Classroom teachers). Please reach out to any member of the SBG Committee if you have any questions.

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January 8, 2021: Standards-Based Learning & Grading Badges!

Over the coming months, you will begin to see some changes to your peers’ email signatures. As we progress through our professional development and training on Standards-Based Learning and Grading, teachers will earn an SLPS Micro-credential in Standards-Based Learning and Grading. These micro-credentials are awarded at 3 levels. Each badge represents a level of achievement in the learning process. When you see someone with a Level 3 SBL&G badge, you will know that this person has an SLPS micro-competency in Standards-Based Learning and Grading. Ask them what they did to earn their badge. Talk to them about their experience with Standards-Based Learning and Grading. Interested in earning your very own badge in SBL&G? Watch for future PD opportunities in the area of Standards-Based Learning and Grading.

December 18, 2020: 3rd Grade Teachers, Did You Miss the PD?

If you missed Monday or Tuesday's PD, don't worry. It's not too late for you to catch up. You can access the pre-work by accessing these directions.

We have recorded the PD, so you can view what you missed. All content, videos, and materials can be found below. Please access this hyperdoc with all the links and some extras. SBL&G PD 12.2020 Post PD Hyperdoc.docx

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. We WANT to help!

December 11, 2020: Standards-Based Grading PD

In an effort to provide ongoing support for the Standards Based Grading Pilot in 3rd grade, the Standards-Based Grading Committee is hosting quarterly professional development sessions, beginning this month. Our first sessions are for third grade teachers and any elementary teacher practicing Standards Based Grading. Sessions are 3:30-4:30pm Monday, Dec. 14 and Tuesday, Dec. 15. Each teacher is to choose one of the two sessions and sign up in My Learning Plan for the date that works best for them (Title: Standards-Based Grading for 3rd Grade Teachers). If there are scheduling conflicts, we will be recording the second session. Teachers, with principal approval, can view that. We will be asking AICs to provide the email addresses for all participating teachers, as they will receive an email granting access to pre-coursework, which will need to be completed prior to the PD. Principals and AICs are strongly encouraged to participate as well.

December 4, 2020: Which Do You Value More, Grades or Feedback? Would Your Students Agree?

When you provide students information about their learning, do you do it when you hand back an assignment with a grade on it? What do you ask students to do with that assignment once it's been handed back to them? If you aren't asking them to do anything with it, then are you REALLY asking them to interact with your feedback, or are you just telling them how they did? It's time to change the focus of our communications with students regarding their achievement of mastery on the standards. Grades are more about a permanent record than they are about learning. How can we shift the gears to ensure that the feedback we give our students is meaningful, improves learning, and is valued by the students? Since we can only control ourselves, then our behavior is what we need to change. We have all heard the phrases Assessment OF Learning and Assessment FOR Learning, but have we really thought about what that means? If you are giving students an assessment OF their learning, there is no chance to recoup that learning. If you provide students feedback on their learning as a way to ensure they are able to fix up their understanding, then you are using assessment FOR learning.
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November 20, 2020: Are You Grading for Learning or for Completion?

It's time for us to change our thinking on the instructional cycle. Let's look at how we do things in a traditional setting: you teach a lesson, you give an assignment, the students complete that assignment, you grade it based on some criteria, and you give it back to the student, so they can see how they DID.

What if we shifted from thinking about grades as a way to tell students how they did, to thinking about grades as a way of telling students how they ARE DOING? What if we stopped treating grades as the autopsy and started thinking about them as a, true to its name, PROGRESS REPORT? What if we saw student mastery of a standard as a journey that sits on a timeline that all students are walking along?

Instead of the instructional cycle described above, what if we used this one: assess what students already know, teach what they still need, assess them and provide feedback as they progress through the learning unit, teach them what they still need, assess them and provide more feedback as they progress through the learning until until the student has completed the journey from not knowing something to mastering it.

Using grades to reward or punish compliance communicates nothing to anyone about the student’s actual learning of content and often communicates the futility in future effort. What if we were able to change that futility to a goal that every child CAN achieve? What if there was never a reason to give up because the goal is always attainable?

What changes can you make right now to help students shift from thinking about assignments as providing a finite, unchangeable snapshot to a submission waiting for your feedback and guidance in order to achieve a larger goal?

Dylan Wiliam Talks Formative Assessment to be Used FOR Learning

Dylan Wiliam: Formative assessment

Rick Wormeli Covers the Basics of SBG

Rick Wormeli - Standards Based Practices

Start Here to Read Our Journey Through Standards-Based Learning in the Academic Newsletter

Below you will find every update provided to you by the Standards-Based Grading Steering Committee. We began sharing our updates with you along with tips, tricks, and food for thought back in November of 2019. Our Committee Work began in February of 2018. The committee members, led by Dr. Sara Martens, are:

  • Dr. Paula Knight
  • Deputy Cheryl VanNoy
  • Dr. Glenn Barnes
  • Dr. Valentina Bumbu
  • Tiffany Clay
  • Dr. Bertha Doar
  • Dr. Kristi Donaldson
  • Dr. Habiba Ibrahim,
  • Kaye Harrelson
  • Judine Keplar
  • Zehra Khan
  • Carrie Launius
  • Dr. Kimberly Moody
  • Dr. Esther Palsenberger
  • Dr. Latisha Smith
  • Shannon Tuggle
  • Kip Warr
Please do not hesitate to reach out to any member of this committee if you have questions about any of the information we have provided below. We are always eager to discuss the topic of Standards-Based Learning and Grading.

November 29, 2019: Standards-Based Learning!

Have you heard the buzz about Standards-Based Learning? It’s coming in August, and we want you to be informed. Be sure to check the Academic Newsletter’s Standards-Based Learning Corner every week for updates and ways you can be part of the conversation!

December 6, 2019: What is Standards-Based Grading/Grading for Learning?

In a standards-based system, teachers report what students know and are able to do relative to the Missouri Learning Standards. The system includes:

  • The improvement of student achievement of standards and learning targets in all content areas,

  • The mastery of defined learning targets instead of the accumulation of points,

  • The reporting of student achievement toward meeting learning targets at a given time by reflecting on mounting evidence based on various forms of assessments,

  • A record keeping system that provides teachers with information that allows them to adjust learning practices to meet the needs of students, and

  • A system that encourages student reflection and responsibility

Ultimately, it is a shift of focus from teaching to learning.

December 13, 2019: What Do The Experts Say About Standards-Based Learning?

  • Standards-Based learning provides teachers clear opportunities to plan with the end in mind because “...they can develop specific performance criteria for each performance standard. Standards-based learning leads to more precise and efficient instructional choices.”

-Standards-Based Learning in Action Schimmer et al., 2018

  • Haystead and Marzano (2009) conducted a comprehensive review of studies on classroom instructional strategies, concluding the use of scoring scales and tracking student progress over time towards a learning goal yielded a 34 percentage point gain.

December 20, 2019: Frequently Asked Questions About Standards-Based Learning

Come back to the Academic Newsletter each week for updated information about the SLPS Journey from TEACHING to LEARNING in a Standards-Based Learning System.

When will SLPS be going to a Standards-Based Learning system?

The roll out will begin in August 2020, but the work to prepare for that roll out began in April 2019.

Is this for all grade-levels and content areas?

Eventually, yes. However, this process will be strategic. Not all grade levels will roll out at the same time.

Are there other area districts who are in a Standards-Based Learning System?

Yes. In SLPS, we are in a Standards-Based System from PreK-2nd grade. Additionally, Maplewood-Richmond Heights, Mehlville, Ritenour, Rockwood, St. Charles City, and many more school districts are using a Standards-Based Learning system.

Click here to complete a survey to inform our work.

January 10, 2020: What Do I Need to Know About a Standards-Based System?

What Do I Need to Know About a Standards-Based System?

“The most critical element of standards-based learning is simply a decision to begin the process of aligning teaching, assessment, and reporting to standards” (Standards Based Learning in Action, Schimmer at al.). Standards-Based Learning is about much more than a grade book; it is an entire cultural shift that makes sure everyone (teacher, student, and parents) knows what students need to know in order to achieve mastery. The conversation changes from what students “do” to what students “learn.” No longer are the days where we teach based on our own desires and affinities. We are now in a place where we teach what students need to know in order to be successful throughout their entire educational career, an experience that builds on itself. Depth is valued over breadth, and mastery learning is valued over timelines. The question to ask becomes, "Did they learn it?" instead of "Did you teach it?". Students move from passive receivers of information to active participants and decision-makers in the process of their mastery learning.

If you have not already, please respond to a survey to help inform our work on Standards-Based Learning.

January 17, 2020-Many people ask, what’s the difference between a standards-based grading system vs. a traditional grading system?

“When embarking upon standards-based grading, it’s crucial that you don’t only seek to reimagine the way “grades” and report cards work. You must be prepared for the pedagogical shifts that are necessary to completely adopt a standards-based approach. That’s where the term “mindset” comes into play. According to Tom Schimmer in Grading from the Inside Out, it might be more beneficial for educators to think in terms of a standards-based mindset instead of standards-based grading. Like any mindset work, that subtle shift in language helps keep the focus off of the grading process while highlighting the cultural and paradigm shift.” (Schoology)
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January 24, 2020: What can I do now to be better prepared for when Standards-Based learning hits my classroom?

Do your research.

There are many school districts who’ve outlined their process of moving to a Standards-Based system. There are also many great books on the topic. A couple of vetted titles are:

Ken O’Connor How to Grade for Learning: Linking Grades to Standards (book)

Tom Schimmer, Garnet Hillman, and Mandy Stalets Standards-Based Learning in Action: Moving From Theory to Practice (book)

Know your standards.

Missouri uses the Missouri Learning Standards. You can find those on DESE’s Website.

You can also download an app onto your phone through Mastery Connect. Just go to your App Store and search for “Missouri Learning Standards.”

Get involved.

Express your interest here: SBG Survey

January 31, 2020: How Can I Get Involved in SLPS’s Standards-Based Grading and Learning Work?

There are many opportunities to get involved opening up soon. You can serve as a leader by joining the work in the following ways:

  • Writing Proficiency Scales for Standards

  • Train-the-Trainer Professional Development

  • Summer Work

  • Policy Work

  • Professional Development Planning

  • Communication Work

  • Report Card Revision Work

You do not need to be an expert in any of these areas in order to participate in the work. You will be led by a resident expert, who will ensure you have all that you need to contribute fully in the work. You simply need a passion for the work, a team player sensibility, and a head full of ideas! If you have not already expressed interest, please use this link to let us know that you are interested. We will be reaching out soon.

February 7, 2020: I am ready to get involved today. How can I do that

Each Curriculum Specialist will be reaching out with curriculum work opportunities and standards work opportunities. Be sure to be on the lookout for emails from your curriculum team! This is a premier place for you to both have a strong voice advocating for children as well as experience high levels of professional development. We will be working diligently over the next months and years on ensuring that what we report about student learning is true, accurate, and clear. In order to do this, we have to revise and update our processes for communication both to students and to their parents as well as our understanding of curriculum priorities and processes. Everyone will get the information, but not everyone will get to help create that information. If you want to be a creator of the information and the processes, respond to your curriculum specialist or use this link to let us know that you are interested. We will be reaching out soon.

Februrary 14, 2020: All Children CAN Learn!

“Nobody knows ahead of time how long it takes anyone to learn anything.” -Dr. Yung Tae Kim

“All children can learn.” We repeat this phrase without a second thought, but do we really behave as though we believe this? Our shift to Standards-Based Learning and Grading is centered on a shift from talking about teaching to talking about learning. As teachers we are charged with making sure students learn. An important component of being Standards-Based is that we differentiate instruction, so all children are able to find their own path to mastery. We need to change our thinking from “grades are finite and tell children how they did” to “grades are ongoing feedback that helps students know what they need to do.” If learning is allowed to occur at a faster or a slower rate than predicted, we are being responsive and demonstrating that we believe all children can their own time.

Standards-Based Learning and Grading is the belief that all children can learn and the science of making sure the systems and structures allow them to do so. To listen to Rick Wormeli, author of Fair Isn’t Always Equal talk about Standards-Based Practices, click here.

The Curriculum Team will be reaching out to those who have expressed interest, through the survey, in leading in this work. If you hope to be a part of the movement, complete this survey expressing your interest.

February 28, 2020: FAQs Answered

Some questions that have already been asked are:

Isn’t Standards-Based Learning and Grading just teaching to the test?

No. Standards-Based Learning is teaching to a target and making sure your assessments are aligned. “Students can hit any target they can see.” (Rick Wormeli) Making sure students know what is expected of them (letting them see and analyze an exemplar) and teaching them so they are able to achieve this target is not teaching to a test unless your only target is the test. In SLPS, we will have learning and standards targets which will result in: learning the standards. Learning the standards will result in improved performance on all assessments because students learned.

Doesn’t this mean I am no longer allowed to give a zero for an assignment that is not turned in?

No. It means that students will be given grades based on what learning and mastery they are able to demonstrate. Grades for citizenship, responsibility, and participation will be separate from grades that are intended to communicate mastery of content. In a Standards-Based System, academic and non-academic grades are separated in order to ensure a clean and honest report of learning.

How are we supposed to teach every standard to mastery? Isn’t there more content than can be covered to mastery in one year?

Yes. The truth is the curriculum teams that will be working on revising our curriculum documents will identify (based on DESE recommendations as well as historical data for SLPS) what our primary, secondary, and tertiary standards will be. Primary Standards will be spiraled, taught, and retaught to mastery. Secondary and tertiary will be taught with discretion to student readiness and intervention plans.

March 6, 2020: What you need to know about the rollout of Standards-Based Learning and Grading?

We are moving in a very intentional manner towards a full district-wide implementation of Standards-Based Learning and Grading. In the 2020-2021 school year, we are rolling out with 3rd grade. Our PreK-2nd grade classrooms are already Standards-Based, so it is time to allow those students to matriculate up through their schooling to graduate from an entirely standards-based system. While the curriculum work will continue to happen for other grades, we are doing a rollout with 3rd grade only to start the year. We recognize that there needs to be significant support provided to the teachers implementing a new system, so all hands will be on deck for our 3rd grade teachers next year. If you are excited to begin the shift to a Standards-Based Classroom, please reach out to your Curriculum Specialists to learn about the work they are doing and what resources you might access.

March 13, 2020: It's Time to Be Bold!

SLPS Transformation Plan 3.0 has outlined 5 Pillars for our pathway to excellence. It is time to be bold and take a stand on behalf of the children of St. Louis Public Schools. SLPS has spent significant time creating a plan to ensure bold action is taken, and supported, toward ensuring all students succeed. Within each Pillar, there are listed “Activities Bringing Us Closer to Our Goals.” Standards-Based Learning and Grading lends itself to many of these activities. Most significantly, however, are under Pillar 4: All Students Learn to Read and Succeed.


6. Identify, implement, and monitor the progress of students on benchmarks for K-8 progress.

9. Increase the strength of academic interventions in our primary grades

10. Implement a systemic Response to Intervention and Instruction (RTI2) model in all schools

12. Align our academic standards to the demands of college and workforce

13. Reading standards are aligned in daily instructional plans to improve readability levels and increase student growth for all students in K-12

15. Establish clear K-12 performance benchmarks

Every teacher, staff member, leader, parent, and child wants improved outcomes for every child in SLPS. We can achieve this if we are innovative, fearless, and tenacious. We also know we have passionate and dedicated teachers, who are willing to do whatever it takes to help their students learn. This combination of passionate teachers and supportive communities surrounding those teachers will make the difference. What going Standards-Based will do for this effort is allow us to always pinpoint the successes and the needs of our students. It’s time to stop talking about scores and grades on assignments and start talking about mastery of content. It’s time to stop doing what we’ve always done and be bold in trying to change things for the better. Remember, if you are excited to begin the shift to a Standards-Based Classroom, please reach out to your Curriculum Specialists to learn about the work they are doing and what resources you might access.

November 13, 2020: Standards-Based Grading Update

The pandemic has brought many changes to our lives, and we are all just trying to do what is best for our children. There are many things about teaching and learning that make us desperately long for the way things used to be. However, there are some bright spots in these times: we are finally 1:1, our students are growing ever more savvy with technology and self-advocacy, and finally we have the opportunity to use our grading system for EQUITY. In the spring, our only response was to be flexible, and ensure that no child suffered academically because they were not able to adapt quickly enough. Now we get to take that one step further. Grading is, as we were reminded in our Back to School PD, our opportunity to communicate (to parents, to children, and to the stakeholder community) the story of how our children are doing in school. Our flexibility and protection of our children comes in a new form: grading for learning. A grade should not represent compliance, but rather capture the status of a student’s ability to master standards. In the weeks ahead, please check back here for updates and ideas for grading for learning and for PD opportunities for Standards-Based Learning and Grading.

Upcoming Topics:

Are you grading for learning or are you grading for completion?

Do you value feedback more than grades?

Are you punishing and rewarding non-academic behaviors with academic grades?

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