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District Implements Standards-Based Grading for Kindergarten, First-Grade Students

The Cheatham County School District’s elementary schools recently announced the introduction of a standards-based grading system for kindergarten and first-grade students.

"Our previous grading system did not fully communicate what the students are expected to know as set forth by the Tennessee state standards," a newsletter to parents reads. "While we recognize that with change comes challenges, this new approach to grading will benefit all stakeholders, including students, teachers, and parents/guardians."

According to the district, the change will allow students to be more aware of what they are expected to learn and allow them to track their progress. Parents will receive a more detailed outline of their child’s growth and achievement as well.

"We believe clear communication between school and home throughout the course of the year is vital to our students’ success. We look forward to working together to provide your child with the knowledge and tools needed to reach his or her fullest potential," reads the news letter.

What is Standards-Based Grading?

Standards-based grading measures the mastery of the learning objectives, or how well students understand the content in class. It is a method of reporting what students have learned and how they demonstrated their learning of the Tennessee State Standards required by the Tennessee Department of Education. Standards specify what all students should know and be able to do by the end of the school year. A standards-based approach allows parents and students to understand more clearly what is expected of students and how to help them be successful.

What is the purpose of Standards-Based Grading? The purpose of standards-based grading is to improve student learning by focusing on instruction and the alignment of curriculum with the essential standards. It provides an accurate measurement and reporting process on students’ proficiency in meeting those standards. Standards-based grading and reporting will provide better communication to students, parents, teachers and administrators on the students’ academic abilities.

How does Standards-Based Grading differ from traditional letter grades?

Standards-based grading informs us what students have learned and know. Standards-based grading measures a student’s knowledge of grade level content over time by reporting the most recent, consistent level of performance. For example, a student might struggle in the beginning of a grading period with new content but may demonstrate proficiency by the end of the grading period. In traditional grading, the student’s performance for the whole grading period would be averaged, and early assessment scores that were low would be averaged together with proficient assessment scores. The result of the scores averaged would be a lower grade. When a percentage system is applied, it can be misleading. In standards-based grading, a student who reaches proficiency would be reported proficient, and the grade would reflect current performance level.

Why change?

Traditional grading often measures many different factors such as homework, extra credit, attendance, behavior etc.…and sometimes compares how well students do in relation to their classmates. Standards-based grading measures how well an individual student is doing in relation to each grade-level standard or skill. Standards-based grading gives students and parents specific information on what the student knows and what the student can do. It eliminates many of the factors that can distort the final traditional grade as a true indicator of mastery. It clears up the uncertainty about what the grade means. The goal is to do all we can to make sure that a grade is the best representation of how well a student knows the content.

What are the benefits of Standards-Based Grading?

For Students: Learning targets are clearly defined and aligned to Tennessee Standards - Students are offered multiple opportunities and ways through which to demonstrate proficiency - Students monitor their own progress toward the achievement of specified targets - Specific feedback on progress helps build self-esteem, pride and motivation for students.

For Parents: Grades have more meaning o Parents are aware of what their child knows and is able to do - Parents see the learning progression - Parents know in what areas their child needs more support - Parents empowered to increase their child’s confidence and to actively participate in their child’s learning goal.

For Teachers: Teachers know exactly where students are in the learning continuum - Each grade assignment has the same aligned standards and expectations - Assessment results help teachers determine when students need more support and when they need challenging work.


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