Standards Based Grading - February 2023

  • Dear Duneland Elementary Parents,

    Our K-4 teams have been exploring different ways to measure student performance, and we wanted to take some time over the remainder of this school year to bring you up-to-speed on our discoveries and where we are headed with regard to student grading at the elementary level. The Indiana Department of Education has adopted challenging standards over the years. Teachers in Duneland classrooms have been building curriculum and using instructional strategies designed to promote student mastery of each standard. During this process, it has become clear that we need to update how we assess student learning so that it supports student mastery of these standards.

    As we work to make these adjustments, we have been investigating ways to best communicate student progress to families. Currently, our grading practices do not fully support the responsive teaching and learning that is happening in our classrooms.  As a result, we have found that a Standards-Based Grading approach may best align with our goals.  

    What is Standards-Based Grading (SBG)?

    Standards-Based Grading is an approach to grading that highlights students’ strengths and areas of improvement by individual standard. This approach measures how well a student understands the material and how they are progressing with their learning goals. The focus is on what a student currently can do, not how long it takes them to get there. Through this approach, we will build consistent grading practices for grades K-4 throughout our school district.

    There are four key elements to SBG:

    1. Student performance is clearly communicated with numbers

    2. The focus is on true student understanding rather than completing tasks

    3. Students have multiple opportunities to prove they have met learning goals

    4. Learning is specific and purposeful

    Why use Standards-Based Grading (SBG)?

    Standards-Based Grading helps to create a more meaningful and fair learning environment. Students learn criteria they need to meet in order to show they have mastered specific skills. Student learning is measured by how well they meet these criteria (rather than by averaging scores for the entire grading period). Additional factors, such as behavior, are communicated separately.  In short, Standards-Based Grading is used to provide clarity on progress towards specific skill development on a standard.

    Will Standards-Based Grading (SBG) eventually be used in Grades 5-12?

    DSC teachers will continue to use some Standards-Based Grading strategies in all grades, but we will still use traditional letter grades (A, B, C, D, or F) in Grades 5-12.  This is due to credit attainment and grade point average reasons that are specific to the secondary level.

    Over the next four months, messaging on Standards-Based Grading will be shared with K-3 families for the purpose of developing familiarity with the process before implementation in grades K-4 during the 2023-24 school year. 


    Yours in education,

    The Department of Teaching & Learning


Standards Based Grading - March 2023

  • Dear Duneland Elementary Parents,

    Last month we began learning about Standards-Based Grading (SBG). We touched on what SBG is and why it is a useful way to understand student learning and report on student performance. This month we would like to look at what a “score” might look like for a student using SBG.

    Standards-Based Grading scales use 4 tiers to communicate students’ learning. This information is reported each grading period. Each numbered tier is connected to a word that describes the student’s level of understanding:

    1 = Beginning or Limited Progress

    2 = Progressing

    3 = Mastery or Consistently Meets Grade Level Expectations

    4 = Above & Beyond or Exceeds Grade Level Expectations

    These numbers do not represent a percentage or a traditional letter grade (such as an A, B, C, D, or F). Instead, the numbers describe specifically what a student currently knows or can do.

    Duneland School Corporation teachers are responsible for teaching all Indiana Academic Standards. However, we have looked more closely at these standards and have determined which standards are most critical in each grade level. These standards are called “priority standards.” The priority standards are considered to be crucial building blocks for the skills students must master to be successful in future coursework. Through Standards-Based Grading, teachers will communicate students’ mastery of these priority standards.

    SBG will benefit all learners by identifying individual progress toward standard achievement.  This reporting philosophy will assist staff in determining intervention or enrichment opportunities for all students.  As a result, a student who may have struggled at the beginning of a content or course when first learning new material may still be able to demonstrate mastery of key content/concepts by the end of the school year. 

    Yours in education,

    The Department of Teaching & Learning

Standards Based Grading - April 2023

  • Dear Duneland Elementary Parents,

    Since the beginning of the new year we have been communicating our exploration of Standards-Based Grading.  We have prioritized and focused our research because SBG is responsive to learning and aligns with our instructional priorities. 

    What might look the same vs different?

    In a traditional grading system, student’s grades are typically based on a student’s averaged performance.  This could also include factors such as effort and participation. As a student learns a new concept, those scores would be averaged into final grades whereby a student has progressed towards mastery.  This ultimately creates a lower overall grade that does not accurately reflect the current or ending outcome.  In turn this could also hide gaps in learning when grading larger projects.  This system prioritizes the most recent and consistent performance by the students based on individual standards. Our goal is for all students to demonstrate mastery by the end of the school year. 


    Traditional Grading 

    Standards Based Grading

    Assessment grades are given and averaged on multiple standards.

    Individual performance ratings are given for every priority standard.

    Using a percentage system, grading criteria are not always clear.

    Specific criteria and feedback help students to learn what it “looks like” to successfully achieve a standard.

    A mix of achievement, effort, behavior, homework, penalties and extra credit that distort grades.

    Measures achievement of the standard. Because no penalties or bonuses are given, grades are not distorted.

    It’s not about what students earn; it’s about what students learn.

    Students have a limited number of opportunities to demonstrate mastery.

    Selected common assessments are used to report progress on priority standards, so students have more opportunities to demonstrate mastery and growth.

    Grades are calculated using an averaging system - the lowest grades are averaged with the highest.

    Emphasizes the most recent assessments more heavily to demonstrate learning that has occurred and document the learning process.

    Yours in education,

    The Department of Teaching & Learning


  • Dear Duneland Elementary Parents,

    Upon conclusion of our research into Standards-Based Grading, we have established the goal is to empower students with grading that guides the learner to deeper understanding and mastery of concepts and standards, with all students demonstrating mastery by the end of the school year. We know that children and their learning are too complex to be reduced to a simple letter grade.

    Through our research of the Standards-Based Grading approach in grades K-4 we noted that a highlight of this grading system is the strengthening of student self-efficacy by building understanding and confidence in student learning.  With this visible learning approach, students know and understand what it is they are learning and their progress towards mastery.  This focus empowers students to continue working toward their goals until they achieve them.  Research shows that students with high self-efficacy attribute their success to effort vs ability.  They know that if they work hard, they will eventually “get it” no matter how challenging the obstacle.  

    Standards-Based Grading strengthens the family-school connection at the K-4 level by making it easier for families to understand how their children are growing academically and giving students the time they need to grow as learners. Traditional grades are averages of student performance in multiple skills and concepts. With Standards-Based Grading, families have access to the levels of mastery students have achieved on every individual priority standard. It is easier for families to support their children’s academic growth because the information shared is more specific, timely and actionable. 

    More specific information will be shared at the start of the 2023-2024 school year so students and parents will know what they can expect to see when report cards are posted at the end of the first quarter. 

    Yours in education,

    The Department of Teaching & Learning