• Rethinking Grading with Dr. Cathy Vatterott

    Thursday, February 16, 2017

    6 p.m.

    Century Jr. High School



    Standards based grading (SBG) - why?

    • Results are profound on achievement

    • Results are profound on college and career readiness

    • Results are profound on success for struggling students

    Traditional grading:

    • Inconsistency

    • Lack of growth producing feedback - pass or not, we move on

    • Often rewards working more than learning

    • Grade-learning mismatches - averaging/attendance, homework averages in*

    • Can be unfair to high achievers and low achievers, as well

    • Sacrifices academic expectations in the name of kindness

    • *Everything=nothing

    • Averaging and zeros can distort the true picture of learning, low grades do not necessarily show what the student knows and understands

    Mindset Shifts




    Brilliant students who do not necessarily have to do homework and do not have a good work ethic - does SBG instill in them now that work habits are not important?

    Work habits are very important.  SBG reinforces this importance.  The district is working to define work habits by subject level.

    What is SBG?

    The grade that only reflects how the student is doing on a particular standard.  Looking specifically at the standards. Example of SBG Report Card (see page 11 of handout) Achievement Grade Key explains the descriptor, i.e., S=Secure, demonstrates a complete understanding and application; P=Progressing, demonstrates a general understanding; N=Needs improvement, demonstrates an inconsistent understanding, etc.

    The SBG report card is more complicated, but gives the parent and teacher so much more information/feedback.  Also provides a Social-Emotional Learning piece which includes work ethic.

    • Grades should reflect only learning

    • Learning is not error-free

    • New information replaces old information

    • Speed of learning does not reflect ability or intelligence

    • Assessment is a process not an event

    If grading is subjective, how are grades/numbers determined?

    Rubric is used.  It will be up to the district to determine what does a “4” mean, what does a “3” mean.  Specific standards will be used to determine grading.

    How will SBG reflect on students going on to high school where standards based grading is not used?

    District talked to District 230, the high school feeder district. D230 feels that SBG provides grading useful to them in placing students.  High schools themselves would like to get there, but that would be in the future.

    How do the students make the adjustment from 1,2,3,4’s to getting traditional high school grades?

    Students adjust fine to a different system.  The students have ownership of their learning, and they actually do better when moving to high school.  Students will still have tests so the assessment will be the same; the recording of the assessment will be altered.  

    Are students being graded on every standard at each of the four quarters?

    If the child has a “1” in a particular area, the teacher and the student will work together on that area before moving on.  


    Research shows that retention actually does more damage to the student.

    How long have other schools implemented SBG?

    Approximately 3-5 years.

    What drives change?  Are we throwing out the whole grading system vs. making some changes and moving slowly?

    It is more specific.  Cannot communicate where the student is with just one letter or one number grade.  SBG is a much more detailed picture of the student’s learning.  Students no longer ask “how many points is that worth.”  Students are in school to learn, not to earn points.  The district is moving slowly.  Change will not be forthcoming at least until the 2018-19 school year.


    No consistency across teachers with traditional grading. In SBG we are standardizing grading - consistent grading from one teacher to the other.

    What ideas does the district have for updated report cards?

    The district will not change report cards without feedback from all stakeholders.  We will take our time and we will define grading by grade level with teachers, parents and students collaboratively.

    Does this show a difference in standardized test scores for kids?

    Yes.  Take the non-academics out of the grade and students take ownership, we see an increase in better testing.

    Does the honor roll system use SBG?

    Depending on the school.  Is the honor roll just about the grades, or does it also include behavior, leadership, social skills?  These things are all negotiable within the district.

    Standards Based Grading IS a different language.  Definitions will be given on proficiency levels based on the standards, not averaging.  

    Keys to motivation are:

    • Autonomy

    • Mastery

    • Purpose - why are they doing what they are doing

    Students already exercise these keys outside of school in everyday living.

    Report cards - the very last step in using SBG.  What should the report card look like?

    Asking students to be motivated for subjects that do not interest them?

    Students need to be given the power to learn.

    Students say, “Tell me what I have to do to get an A.”  Racing against time in the classroom with so many standards that have to be met.  How do teachers do what they have to do in the time given?

    Kids accelerate in learning if there is no risk in failure.  Need to shift the understanding not just to students and teachers, but also to parents.  With SBG, the student can see and understand what they are learning, what they need to do, etc.

    Should all work be graded?


    Should all work receive feedback?

    YES.  But grades are not the only way to give feedback.

    Are teachers the only ones who can give feedback?

    NO. The students themselves can give feedback.

    Grades are not necessary for learning, but feedback is.

    Is there a model primary school for SBG?

    Blended classrooms?

    Yes.  Students work at their own pace.  Those who progress faster, will work with those who are progressing faster.  Slower students will work at their own pace until mastery.

    They very well could be working on different standards.  Learning is defined by standards.  The way that learning is structured is different.  How learning is experienced is different by student.  Differentiation is common.  

    Rethinking Homework - in a standards based system (see page 8-9 in handout)

    What is the standard that is being addressed by this assignment?  Cheating at an all time high in high schools; they know it will affect their grade, so cheating comes into play.  Parents have even completed homework for the students.  Homework should have a clear learning target.  

    Homework should be formative assessment that informs summative assessment.  

    Paradigm shift:  Homework does not count in the grade - it is used to check for understanding, provide feedback to the learner and deepen understanding for summative assessments.  “We don’t keep score during practice.”  It does not count as the grade, but it is considered as a work habit.  Grades represent learning - not the amount of work completed or compliance.  Does it count?  YES, because it helps you pass the assessment.

    Define homework?

    Anything expected to be done outside of school is considered homework.  It is done without teacher supervision.  The trend is to give feedback on the homework, but do not count it as a grade.  It will not affect the bottom line of the final grade.

    How are they defining the academic vs. the behavior?

    State standards for the most part which look like common core.  District office is to articulate what those standards look like.

    Neighboring districts who use SBG?

    We do consult with other districts as curriculum directors. We have learned from other districts who now have SBG.  This is our exploratory year.  District website has a wealth of knowledge. Please consult. District 146 using SBG system - works very well.

    Rollout?  Timeline?

    Most districts take 3-5 years.  Work ahead of us is to continue to meet as smaller committees.  Work throughout the entire school year next year - defining rubrics, etc.  SBG starting to come out sometime during the 2018-19 school year possibly.  We are moving slowly.

    Time for discussion?  Will teachers be pulled out of the classroom for this discussion?

    Next year we have early release days built into the calendar.  This will allow teachers the time to work collaboratively on SBG.  We are minimizing the time the teachers are out of the classrooms.

    What do the teachers think about SBG?  Will this give them a lot more work?

    Transition will have a learning curve, but generally teachers feel it is worth it because they are really seeing the learning - and it energizes them.  

    When do parents get the dates?  Parents should be alerted.

    We cannot give out any dates because we do not have dates set in stone.  The thought is to implement in 2018-19, but we must go forward slowly.  Parents please inform other people, and parents are invited to attend our monthly focus groups if interested.

    Dr. Cathy Vatterott, Professor of Education, University of Missouri-St. Louis

    www.homeworklady.com        vatterott@umsl.edu          @realhomeworkldy (Twitter)