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Frequently Asked Questions

How will standards-based grading affect the honor roll?

Standards-based grading is only about comparing students learning to learning targets and not about comparing students to peers.  Like grades themselves, in a traditional grading system, honor rolls are inconsistent, imprecise, and not accurate indicators of student success.  What one student does for an ‘A’ to be on the honor roll may be very different than another student who has an ‘A’ on the honor roll.  Grades, in a traditional system, are inconsistent and imprecise because of all of the different variables connected to them.  


Student recognition is a topic that will be discussed throughout District 135’s transition to standards-based grading.  


What about students with ADHD, diagnosed or not diagnosed?

In a standards-based method of grading and reporting, behavior targets are clearly defined and separate from academic targets.  If a student has a plan that includes supports for behavior, the student would be graded on success with the targets with the supports in place. The supports would be noted in the reporting documentation.

If a student’s team has determined the necessity for modified behavior targets, that student would be graded based upon the success in working toward modified learning targets.  Documentation of modified targets would be included with the report card documentation as well.  


How would the students be placed in advanced classes?

Currently, simply looking at a student’s grades do nothing to support a student being placed into an advanced class or not being placed into an advanced class.  The reason is that there is no consistency behind how grades are given and it is almost impossible, just by looking at a grade, to know how much of it is a reflection of what a student knows and how well they know it.  

In a standards-based system, grades would more accurately reflect what students know and how well they have mastered grade level curricula.  The District would be able to use grades as one source of data in placing students into programs.  The District will continue to use universal assessments, such as MAP, as screening assessments to identify students.  The District is also considering expanding universal screening assessments to include more data for students.  A standards-based report card would give the District an accurate source of data to consider students beyond one or two tests.  


How will this system be motivating for the students?

No research supports that low grades motivate students to try harder.  Low grades actually lead to students withdrawing from learning.  When grades are used as consequences for students who do not comply, such practices not only have no educational value, they adversely affect students (Guskey).  Students should understand that there are consequences for what they do or do not do in school, but those consequences should not be reflected in academic grades.


The best motivation for students is removing the threat of judging them when they take risks and make mistakes in the learning process.  Students also become more motivated when they are clear on what they have to do to improve because this has been given to the in the form of feedback.  In addition, when a relationship has been established between the teacher and the student, the student develops internal motivation to do better.  When grading is designed to be accurate, fair, and considerate, it supports positive relationships with teachers and students (Dueck).  Standards-based grading is designed to be accurate, fair, and recognizes student learning rather than compliance.


How will students on an IEP be graded?  Will they be graded differently?

Students will still be graded on mastery of learning targets.  If it is determined by a student’s team that a student needs accommodations to master a target, then accommodations are in place and the student is measured on the same target.  The accommodations are then reviewed by the team to determine the need for ongoing support.


If a student’s team determines that modifications should be put into place, then the student is graded based on progress toward the specifically modified goals.  


Accommodations or modifications are noted on the report card but not a transcript.  


How do we address the impact for later grade point average or college entrance?

Currently, District 135 does not recognize or calculate grade point averages.  As a Pre-Kindergarten through Eighth Grade District, our role is preparing students for high school by helping them be successful in grades Pre-Kindergarten through Eight.  Our high school district, District 230, has advised that a standards-based grading system would provide them with far better information about our students by accurately informing them about what our students have learned.  Our current grading system does not provide our high school district with any meaningful information for selecting, identifying, or grouping students for programs or instruction.  A standards-based report card would not only give our high school district much more clear and accurate information about student success, it would also provide much more meaningful for teacher -to-teacher or district-to-district articulation.




Dueck, M. 2014. Grading smarter not harder; Assessment strategies that motivate kids and help them learn.  Alexandria, VA.  ASCD.


Guskey, T. 2015. Challenging the conventions of grading and reporting: On your mark.  Bloomington, IN. Solution Tree Press.