Standards Based Grading

  • We are often asked why Homewood City Schools uses standards-based grading and reporting in our elementary schools. The answer is simple. Any progress reporting system should guide the learner toward higher levels of achievement. That guidance requires knowledge about the learning journey.

    In traditional A-F grading systems, learners and their parents are hard pressed to get much guidance from a “B” in fifth grade math.  Does it mean that the learner understands every aspect of equivalent fractions, but doesn’t fully grasp measurement and data? Or visa versa?  In the traditional system, that information is not communicated. Homewood City Schools wants to emphasize the learning, not the grading. We want to provide as much information as possible to parents about their learner’s journey to mastery.

    In addition, a standards-based system is crucial in a diverse community, so that each learner can demonstrate mastery of a standard as they gain the skills and knowledge to do so. Some learners demonstrate early mastery and are able to move on to more difficult concepts, while others may require re-teaching. This information is not known to the teacher unless she records and reports progress of each learner against the benchmark of Learning Target mastery.

    We are also often asked if we believe so strongly in standards-based grading and reporting, why do we revert to the traditional A-F system in grades 6-12.

    The answer to that question is simple as well. If we existed in a vacuum, we would continue standards-based grading at the secondary level. We strive to provide the learner and family with the most accurate information possible to guide each student’s journey and that doesn’t change when they get to 6th grade!  However, external factors do change at the secondary level. It’s a different world where GPAs become important to families, athletic eligibility has to be calculated, colleges want records of grade point averages, etc. For this reason, we feel it is best for our students and their families to be able to report their progress in a more traditional way. However, our secondary teachers are still very aware of progress toward each learning target even though it isn’t presented to parents in a descriptive narrative.