Standards based grading: helping or hurting?

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Carly Stern, Staff Reporter

What is SBG?
Mr. Pardun, Mr. Korney, Mrs. Stoub, and Mrs. Macias use standards based grading: a different way to give grades. It is a very different grading system than your generic point system scale; with SBG, you are graded based off of a rubric with 10 being the highest and 5 being the lowest, as long as you write something down; absolutely no work would result in a zero. Rather than receiving credit just for the correct answers, SBG allows you to get points based off your knowledge at a specific point in the class. With a regular class you are expected to know specific information at a given time, but with standards based grading you are given anywhere from three to four attempts along with a retake option if you are still unhappy with your grade. Mr. Pardun said, “For a kid to learn a skill it takes time, and it takes a lot of practice. It does not just happen overnight or even in a week.”
How are you tested?
Rather than being tested on an entire section and hoping to get every point possible, SBG breaks up chapters into sections called Learning Targets. You are generally tested on anywhere from one to three Learning Targets at a time, each receiving a separate grade in the grade book. Math teacher Mr. Korney, said, ¨Even after being tested, I allow students to re-assess on specific learning targets if they are not happy with their grade.” This reinforces the idea that not everybody learns at the same pace, and when one student may be excellent at a Learning Target at the beginning of January, another student may not fully understand the topic until May.
SBG in PowerSchool
Grades in PowerSchool will show all of the learning targets with a number next to it. These numbers change weekly, and are replaced with a higher grade received or averaged with the original if the next attempt was given a lower score. This makes seeing your weak and strong areas easier right on PowerSchool.
Student reactions to SBG
SBG has not only found success with teachers, but with students as well. Rose Ferolo (11) said, “Not only has using SBG made tests easier, (but)I love being able to retake things at any point in the semester when I feel ready.” Ferolo,  along with many other students, found that SBG has helped her reach her fullest potential, and develop a better understanding about specific learning targets. This system of grading gives students a chance to take their grades into their own hands and test themselves when they feel they have mastered the subject. “I love getting back my assessments and seeing that even though I might not have done good on one learning target, I did on the other, and then I always have the option to retake the grades I am not happy with,” says Brendan Keogh (11). Both Brendan and Rose are students of Mr. Pardun’s Precalculus I class this semester. This is the first year that either of them have been exposed to SBG, and they immediately have taken a liking to it.
The myths of SBG
There are a lot of myths about SBG that may worry teachers, parents, and students into using it. Many teachers value turning things in on time, homework, and participation as part of a students overall grade. With all of those things teachers may find it difficult to use SBG. What those skeptical teachers need to see is that it can be done. To do so, you need to set it as a standard. So, along with all the learning targets, there would be a section in PowerSchool for homework, projects, participation, or anything else a teacher would like to assess their students on. There are a lot of established ways to use SBG, and more ways, that are yet to be discovered.
Improvements in SBG
With anything in life, there is always room for improvement; SBG is not yet perfected in any way. Both Mr. Korney and Mr. Pardun are always looking for ways to improve the system, and they continue to read other teacher’s blogs who use it as well as talk to each other and other people they know who are successfully using it. One thing, however, that goes away from SBG is the final exam. Mr. Pardun said, “ I would like to take a good hard look at our final exam policy. The final exam is a very important test that can be up to 20% of a student’s grade and students only have one shot to take that. There are no reassessments.” This steps away from the ideals of SBG and back to a point system like a normal grading scale. Of course, with anything, it will take time to make these changes, but it is not impossible.
SBG for the future
SBG has become more popular and is used worldwide. We may only have a few teachers who use it here at VHHS, but it should not be a scary thing and should be taken into consideration by the faculty here because of the success and likeability it has received from the students, teachers, and parents who participate in or use it.