Standards Based Grading Information

Central CSD Middle School-High School, Elkader, IA

What is standards based grading (SBG)?

Standards based grading (SBG) measures what a student knows or is able to do in relation to a clearly defined learning goal called a standard. Standards based grading looks more closely at each individual student to identify specifically where the student is at in his/her understanding of a topic and what he/she needs to move to the next step in understanding the topic. SBG uses a 4-point scale instead of traditional A-F grades.

How is standards based grading (SBG) different from traditional grading?

Standards based grading (SBG) measures a student’s understanding of a grade level standard during and after instruction and practice (ungraded homework) until the student can demonstrate that he/she understands the standard (demonstrated through formative and summative assessments). This process is followed for each standard in a course. Therefore, a student who struggles with understanding one standard when its first introduced will continue to have opportunities to practice and then demonstrate understanding of the standard throughout the semester or school year. In contrast, with traditional grading, a student’s performance for an entire quarter or semester is averaged together combining multiple standards and many elements including test scores, quizzes, homework, participation and extra credit. There are fewer opportunities to 'go back' for additional practice and assessment on something the student might not have grasped. Also important to note, SBG focuses on academic knowledge rather than behaviors (i.e., effort, participation, timeliness, teamwork, attitude, attendance) that is sometimes seen in traditional grading so there is a more accurate picture of what the student knows.

How are grade level standards determined?

Standards are the learning goals for what students should know or be able to do at each grade level. Most of the core courses, including reading and math, use the Iowa Core Standards. Other courses may use the Iowa Core Standards, national standards, or standards developed within the course curriculum. If you are interested in learning more about what standards are being taught in your child's classroom, feel free to contact your child's teacher.

What are formative assessments?

Formative assessments are a wide variety of methods that teachers use to conduct ongoing evaluations of student understanding, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or course. Formative assessments help teachers identify concepts that students are struggling to understand, skills they are having difficulty acquiring, or learning standards they have not yet achieved so that adjustments can be made to lessons, instructional techniques, and academic support. from http://edglossary.org/

What are summative assessments?

Summative assessments are used to evaluate student learning and academic achievement at the end of a defined instructional period—typically at the end of a project, unit, course, semester, or school year. Summative assessments are used to determine whether students have learned what they were expected to learn. from http://edglossary.org/

What does each of the numbers in the 4 point SBG scale represent?

4 = Mastery - comprehensive knowledge, highest level of understanding

3 = Proficiency - showing competency and skill consistently and without help

2 = Developing - showing understanding with support

1 = Emerging - can show minimal understanding with teacher guidance

0 = No adequate data

How will I know if my child is performing at grade level?

A 3 indicates that a student is consistently performing at grade level. A 4 indicates that a student is consistently performing above grade level. Students may start with 1's and 2's but it is our expectation that all students will perform at 3's by the end of the semester or school year.

How will I know if my child needs help?

If a student receives 1’s or 2’s on an assessment, it means his/her work is not yet meeting grade level standards and the student requires more practice and extra support. A number of academic interventions will be offered to those students who are struggling to meet a standard.

Is it possible to achieve a score of 4 in SBG?

Yes. It's important to note, though, that a score of 4 indicates understanding of a standard that is deeper. The student is able to make connections and extend the new learning beyond the standard.

SBG measures academic learning. But in the real world, people are also 'graded' on behaviors (i.e., effort, attitude, teamwork) in addition to knowledge. Are behaviors taught and measured in addition to academic learning?

SBG focuses on academic understanding of a standard(s). Behaviors, such as effort, participation, cooperation, attitude and attendance, are not measured in SBG. However, students involved with SBG quickly realize that their behaviors--that is, their effort and attitude toward classroom activities and assignments--impact their learning and can prevent them from becoming lost or falling behind or help them excel in the classroom. With SBG, students are required to take responsibility for their own learning. For example, if a student does not do well on an assessment because he/she did not put in the time needed to learn the standard, the student is responsible to do additional practice to move to the next level (re-assessment/re-testing of the standard). It is the student's choice if he/she wants to proceed with learning the standard.


Teachers have high expectations that students do the work to learn. And the teachers are committed to being actively involved in supporting and monitoring their students' learning. Teachers use formative assessments that look for gaps in understanding, meet individually with students to provide feedback, and provide resources that support learning.

Individualized interventions are also put into place for students who struggle with certain behaviors.

How does SBG work with GPA which can be a requirement for admission into some colleges and requirements for certain scholarships?

For now, we are using the following SBG criteria to distinguish an overall letter grade in order to calculate a GPA for each student. Remember, the grades are not figured on points or averages, but on levels of understanding.


A Meets 70% of the standards at Level 4 with no standard lower than Level 3

A- Meets 50% of the standards at Level 4 with no standard lower than Level 3

B+ Meets 25% of the standards at Level 4 with no standard lower than Level 3

B Meets 70% of the standards at Level 3 or above with no standard lower than Level 2

B- Meets 50% of the standards at Level 3 or above with o standard lower than Level 2

C+ Meets 25% of the standards at Level 3 or above with no standard lower than Level 2

C Meets all standards at Level 2 or above

F At least one standard is at or below a Level 1

What if I want more information about SBG?