Standards based grading, the hero we need

Joe Bandy

The Standards Based Grading (SBG) system has been implemented in many classrooms this year and will be school wide by next year.  The system has spread like wildfire through other schools and states. To get a grasp of the student body’s opinion on it, a poll was conducted with some interesting results. Roughly 60% of the students who took the survey didn’t approve of SBG. But of those students, very few gave logical reasoning for why they disapproved, some opting out of the response, many stating they simply didn’t like the change, one comparing it to communism, and one going so far as to use language deemed too inappropriate for this publication when describing how much it sucked.

So why do people really hate it? Many say they don’t like the whole idea of retaking tests. But the school is here to give us an education, and if a student does all the work but doesn’t totally grasp all of the standards and wants to retake it, why should we say no? Granted, we shouldn’t reward students with poor work ethic, but the system doesn’t allow those kids retakes while still helping the ones who truly need the retake.

“Some students, myself included, have really bad test anxiety,” one student response said. “Therefore, tests aren’t necessarily a very accurate way to judge a student’s knowledge.”

This is exactly what SBG is fighting for. One can argue some of the material we learn in school can be used in the real world, but no one will ever be able to say taking tests prepares us for anything. Sure, you get tested in the real world, but not like you do in school. Tests are unnecessary, inaccurate and stressful ways of assessing students. SBG, simply put, wants every kid who wants to learn material and get good grades to be able to achieve that.

When researching for this, I came across an article written by a teacher that explains how helpful SBG is for teachers. They stated how, when looking in the grade book, you really couldn’t tell how well a student was doing. One may have zeros on all assignments but 100’s on all tests or vice versa. Look at the sample grade book below and see which one you think helps a teacher more:


Since all students are assessed on a 1-4 scale that can be translated into phrases like proficient and partial proficient, a teacher can see exactly which student needs help where.

In conclusion, SBG is not the monster many students imagine – almost want – it to be. It is in fact a well-structured system that helps student to learn to their maximum capacities and assists teachers when specifying where a student is lacking. So instead of immediate rejection I encourage the student body to relax and give utilize this tool and who knows, you may learn a thing or two.


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