East Maine School District 63

Empowering all students to succeed in a changing world

Standards-based Grading (FAQs)

What is “standards-based grading?” How is it different than traditional grading?
Standards-based grading evaluates academic progress as measured against Common Core, state, and national standards. Instead of rating a student’s ability to complete a given assignment (on an A-F scale), it provides information about a student’s progress toward a specific target.

Unlike traditional grading, the system uses a numerical proficiency scale. For each learning area, the teacher assigns a proficiency level from 1-4 to indicate a student’s progress toward a standard. Because standards-based grading is based on an expectation of growth, a “1” or “2” early in the year does not indicate poor performance (a “1” doesn’t equal an “D,” and a “4” doesn’t equal an “A”). Instead, it measures where that student is in terms of mastering a learning standard. Students are not expected to understand every subject when they begin the year -- after all, that’s why they come to school! The final numbers, near the end of the year, are what matters.


Why is District 63 using standards-based grading?
Because Common Core places greater emphasis on standards-based instruction, the state is encouraging Districts to move toward standards-based grading, which better reflects this new emphasis.

We also believe standards-based learning can lead to better educational outcomes. Unlike most industrialized countries, U.S. education tends to focus on a wide range of topics, covered with minimal depth. Standards-based instruction shifts to providing more opportunity for depth of learning, versus breadth of learning.


Does standards-based grading accurately reflect my child’s work/achievement?
Yes. Traditional grading computes how well a student did on a specific assignment (a math test, a paper, a lab). Standards-based instruction begins by designing assignments based on standards. Thus, the student can be graded in a way that reflects his/her progress toward meeting that standard -- not just on how well s/he did on a specific test.

It’s also important to remember that any report card is only one communications tool regarding your child’s progress. Others include parent/teacher conferences, our Parent Portal, ongoing interaction with teachers, and more. Ideally, nothing on your child’s report card should be a surprise.


Maine East does not use standards-based grading. How will the high school know where to place my child (honors, AP, etc.)?
Maine East does not use report cards for placement. Instead, it uses 7-8 grade MAP scores in English, language arts, and math. Other factors include junior high teacher recommendations, the 8th grade math placement test, attendance records, and disciplinary referrals.


Are other districts using this system?
Yes. District 62 is using standards-based grading, and there are many other districts throughout Illinois following suit. The Illinois State Board of Education is encouraging all districts to move in this direction.


If that’s true, then why aren’t all districts already using standards-based grading?
It can take time to make the transition, and other districts make their own decisions. But we believe that standards-based grading provides parents with the best information about what their child is learning -- and how they are learning it.


What kind of teacher/parent feedback did the District use in making the decision to shift to standards-based grading?
Teacher input was gathered throughout the process, and the group that developed the report card included teachers from all District schools and grades, including special education and ESL. In the spring of 2013, the District held a series of parent focus groups to gather additional feedback. Parents from every school attended, and were very positive about the change. Finally, the District Board of Education approved the change at its March 2014 meeting.


What should I do if I feel the grading system isn’t accurately reflecting my child’s progress?
Remember that any report card is only one communication tool regarding your child’s progress. But if you have concerns, your first stop should always be your child’s teacher. If you feel you need additional support, the school administrators are there for you -- and, finally, if you feel your concerns are not being addressed, contact the District office.


Where can I get more information?
A great source of information is this website -- and the Parent Curriculum Guide section.
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