Huffpost Education

Standards-Based Grading Slow To Take Effect In High Schools

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Efforts to implement standards-based report cards in high school has been slow to take effect, largely due to uncertainty about how to convert these grades to GPA and reluctance to adopt a nontraditional system, the Associated Press reports.

Many elementary and middle schools across the country have moved to standards-based grading and report cards, which break down academic subjects into content areas and reflect a child’s progress in each of them, often on a 1-to-4 scale. Work habits and behavior are usually graded separately. Advocates of the system argue that the traditional A-F letter grades are less informative about a student's performance and subject mastery.

According to Sally Jo Gilbert de Vargas, the house administrator at Whitman Middle School in Seattle, the system allows for different ways to measure whether a student has met the standards.

Grades in high school, however, count toward graduation and college admissions, which is why some institutions are hesitant to move toward a system that does not easily convert to a grade point average.

Aurora Public Schools in Colorado has managed to mitigate these concerns, providing parents with more detailed information about a student’s progress while sending grades to colleges in traditional GPA format.

The high school translates students’ standards-based grades to the A-B-C-D scale. According to the AP, an A would be given to a student who “consistently and independently demonstrates proficient and advanced understanding in course concepts and skills in a variety of assessments, while a student who “demonstrates proficiency in course concepts and skills with teacher and peer support” would receive a C.

The Kennewick School District in Washington has been moving forward with standards-based grading, despite grievances filed by the district’s teachers' union citing an increased workload because of the grading system that violated teacher contracts, reports the Tri-City Herald.

Administrators at Highlands, Park and Horse Heaven Hills Middle Schools have already implemented the grading policy change at their schools, and claim the new system offers a better indication of student academic achievement and reflects areas where additional help is needed.

Susan Olezene, director for student achievement, curriculum and professional learning for Aurora Public Schools, emphasized the need to transition to standards-based reporting.

“I think we absolutely need to move forward in this way because it empowers students to be part of school," Olezene told AP. "It should be relevant to them. There’s always room for that conversation with higher ed.”

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