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Standards-Based Grading (SBG): Everything You Need To Know (2022)

We take a deep dive into standards-based grading, including its benefits and how to implement SBG into your own classroom.
Author
SpacesEDU Team
Last Updated
June 14, 2022
Estimated Reading Time
10 minutes

Standards-Based Grading

When most people think of grades, they think of a percentage or a letter assigned to an assignment, test, or project. However, standards-based grading (SBG) is a different way of assessing student learning and student progress. SBG is a type of assessment that focuses on what students know and can do in relation to specific learning standards rather than on a comparison with other students. Today, we'll explore the topic of standards-based grading in great detail, including how it works, the student and teacher benefits of this assessment style, and how to begin implementing this method in your own classroom.

What is Standards-Based Grading?

We'll begin by diving deeper into the definition of standards-based grading. As we mentioned, this type of assessment focuses on what students know and are able to do in relation to specific learning standards. These standards could be set by your school, district, state, or even national government.

Let's say you're a math teacher. Some of the mathematical standards your students might be assessed on could include:

  • Understanding addition and subtraction concepts
  • Being able to add and subtract within 100
  • Multiplying and dividing with fractions
  • Expressing decimals as fractions

And so on.

Using a standards-based system every student would be assessed on their individual understanding of these concepts. In other words, each student would receive a grade that shows how well they know and are able to execute the specific standards, rather than how their performance compares to that of their classmates. Over time, as students master more and more standards, their grades would improve.

There are many advantages to this type of assessment for both students and teachers, which we'll explore next.

Student Benefits of Standards-Based Grading

First, this system allows students to receive frequent feedback on their progress. With a traditional grading system, a student might only receive one grade for a semester-long course. However, with SBG, students could receive multiple grades throughout the course on different standards. This gives them regular feedback that they can use to improve their understanding, performance, and academic achievement.

Another benefit is that standards-based grading is often deemed fairer than other systems. In a traditional grading system, a student might get a low grade on a test even if they only missed one question. However, in a standards-based approach, that student would only be marked down for the specific standard they missed. This could provide a more accurate representation of what the student knows and is able to do.

Finally, standards-based grading can motivate students to learn. In a traditional system, some students might give up if they receive a low grade early on in the course. However, with SBG, students know that they can always improve their grades by mastering more standards. This can provide them with the motivation they need to keep learning throughout the course.

(Would you also like to learn more about competency-based education? Visit this link next)

Teacher Benefits of Standards-Based Grading

There are also several advantages of standards-based grading for teachers.

To begin, this system can save you time. In a traditional grading system, you might have to grade each student's work individually and then compare it to the work of their classmates. However, with SBG, you can simply assess whether or not each student has mastered the standards. This can save you a significant amount of time in the grading process.

Next, standards-based grading can improve your ability to provide targeted feedback. In a traditional system, you might give the same general comments to every student who gets a low grade on an assignment. However, with SBG, you can target your feedback to specific standards that each student needs to work on. This can help students understand what they need to do to improve their performance.

Finally, standards-based grading can help you improve your instruction. In a traditional system, it can be difficult to identify which concepts your students are struggling with. However, with SBG, you can quickly see which standards your students have difficulty mastering. This can help you adjust your instruction to better meet the needs of your students.

(Now is the time for schools to give up traditional grades. Here's why)

Types of Standards-Based Grading

There are two main types of standards-based grading: criterion-referenced and norm-referenced.

Criterion-referenced grading assesses each student against a set of fixed standards. In other words, every student who meets the standards will receive the same grade, regardless of how their performance compares to their classmates'.

Norm-referenced grading, on the other hand, assesses each student against the performance of their classmates. In this type of system, grades are given on a curve, and only a certain percentage of students can earn each grade.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both criterion-referenced and norm-referenced grading. Criterion-referenced grading is fairer because every student has the same opportunity to earn a high grade. However, norm-referenced grading may motivate students to learn more because they know that they need to outperform their classmates to earn a high grade.

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Comparing Standards-Based Grading to Traditional Evaluation

It's also worth noting the ways in which SBG differs from traditional evaluation.

For example, SBG can provide more context and meaning to grading than traditional letter grades. In addition, SBG can be more flexible than traditional grading, because it allows teachers to adjust the standards as needed. Finally, SBG can be used to assess student learning in a variety of ways, including portfolios, projects, and presentations.

Implementing Standards-Based Grading

There are many different ways that standards-based grading can be implemented in the classroom. Here are a few of the most common methods.

Mastery Grading

This is perhaps the most well-known type of SBG. In mastery grading, students must demonstrate a complete understanding of a concept before they can move on to the next one. In other words, they must achieve a "student mastery" level grade on each assignment or assessment related to a specific standard before progressing.

Positives:

  • Helps ensure students have a strong foundation in each concept before moving on.
  • Eliminates the need for students to relearn concepts they didn't fully understand the first time around.

Negatives:

  • Can be very time-consuming, both for teachers and students.
  • Students don't learn at the same pace, so some may get bored or frustrated if they have to wait to move on until everyone else in the class has mastered the concept.

Grade Book

In this type of SBG system, student grades are tracked in a grade book that contains all standards for the course or subject. Grades are then assigned based on how well students have performed on each standard.

Positives:

  • Allows teachers to see at a glance which standards individual students need to work on.
  • Encourages students to take a more proactive role in their own learning standards, as they can see which areas they need to focus on.

Negatives:

  • SBG can be time-consuming to set up and maintain.
  • If not used correctly, it can create extra work for teachers.

Standards-Based Report Cards

In this system, students receive a report card that grades them on each standard separately. This type of standards-based report card is often used in elementary schools.

Positives:

  • Allows parents and guardians to see exactly which areas their child is struggling in and what they're excelling at.
  • Like the grade book system, it also encourages students to take a more active role in their own learning standards since they can see which areas need more attention.

Negatives:

  • It can be time-consuming to set up and maintain.
  • It can create extra work for teachers when it isn’t implemented strategically.

Regardless of which type of standards-based grading you choose to implement in your classroom, the most important thing is to be clear and consistent with your expectations. Students need to know exactly what is expected of them, and they need to be able to track their progress over time. If you're not sure where to start with standards-based learning, there are many resources available online that can help you get started.

In the meantime, let's go over a few more questions about SBG and recap some of the points we've covered to help you get the answers you're looking for!

Standards-Based Grading: FAQs

What are some of the benefits of SBG?

Some of the benefits of SBG include improved student learning, increased clarity and consistency in grading, and more meaningful feedback for students.

How does SBG differ from traditional evaluation and assessment?

SBG can provide more context and meaning to grading than traditional letter grades. In addition, SBG can be more flexible than traditional grading, because it allows teachers to adjust the standards as needed. SBG can be used to assess student learning in a variety of ways, including portfolios, projects, and presentations.

Finally, it also provides students with more frequent and specific feedback so they can see where they need to improve.

What are some of the challenges of implementing SBG?

Some of the challenges of implementing SBG include finding the time to set up and maintain a system, training teachers and students on how to use it, and dealing with resistance from stakeholders who are unfamiliar with the concept.

How does SBG vary by grade?

The type of SBG system you use may vary depending on the grade level you teach. For example, elementary schools often use standards-based report cards, while middle and high schools may use a standards-based grade book.

How do I get started with SBG?

If you're interested in implementing SBG in your classroom, there are many resources available online to help you get started. In addition, your school or district may have specific guidelines for how to implement SBG.

How do you grade with standards-based grading?

In SBG, grades are assigned based on how well students have performed on each standard, rather than by assignment. This means that you will need to create a grading rubric for each standard. The rubric will list the different levels of performance, from 0% to 100%, and will specify what students need to do in order to demonstrate mastery of the standard. Further, you'll remove all other assignments from your grade book and instead keep track of student progress on standards in a separate document.

How do you report grades with standards-based grading?

There are many different ways to report grades using SBG. Some schools use standards-based report cards, while others use a standards-based grade book. You can also choose to create your own system for reporting grades. Whichever method you choose, be sure to include a key that explains how the grades correspond to each standard.

Is Standards-Based Grading Right for Your Classroom?

Now that we've answered some of the most frequently asked questions about SBG, you may be wondering if it's the right fit for your classroom. There are many factors to consider when making this decision, including your teaching style, the needs of your students, and the type of assessment you're using.

If you're still not sure whether SBG is right for you, there are a few things you can do to get more information. Talk to other teachers who have implemented SBG in their classrooms, attend a professional development workshop on the topic, or read more about it in one of the many resources available online.

Further, it will also depend on the requirements of your school or district. SBG is becoming more popular in schools, so chances are there are already resources and guidelines in place. However, if you're interested in implementing SBG on your own, be sure to get more information and support from your administration.

Next, learn more about how Spaces helps you bring assessment into your classroom that goes beyond the grade.

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