Standards Based Grading (SBG)

Frequently Asked Questions

Click here for an overview presentation of the Elementary Report card.

How does standards based grading differ from traditional grading?

The student’s grade more accurately represents the progress toward mastery of standards than traditional grading.  Standard based grading measures students’ knowledge of grade-level content over time by reporting the most recent, consistent level of performance.  Letter grades alone do not tell parents which skills their child has mastered or whether he/she is working at grade level.  The standards based report card gives parents a better understanding of their children’s strengths and areas to improve, so as to encourage students to work to their full potential.

What are the purposes of SBG?

The purpose of the standards based report card is to provide feedback that is more detailed to parents regarding the progress their children are making towards specific content indicators at each grade level.  This report card allows parents and students to understand more clearly what is expected at each grade level.  With this understanding, parents will be better able to guide and support their child, helping him/her to be successful in a rigorous academic program.

What are the advantages of SBG?

The advantages of SBG are that learning targets are clearly articulated throughout instruction and parents can see which targets have been mastered and which ones need re-teaching and/or re-learning.

What do the 4, 3, 2, 1, NA mean?

The biggest misconception in SBG is that 4, 3, 2, 1 equates to A, B, C and D.  This is not the case in standards based grading.  The chart below defines the rating scale.

Standards Scale

Report Card Descriptor

Student Descriptors


Exceeding academic standards

I know or can do it well enough to make connections that weren’t even taught


Meeting academic standards

I know or can do everything that was taught without making mistakes


Progressing toward academic standards

I know or can do all of the easy parts, but I don’t know or can’t do the harder parts


Not meeting academic standards at this time

With help, I know or can do some of what was taught


Not assessed at this time

I have not been taught this standard yet


What is considered grade level performance?

Grade level performance means meeting the common core state standards for that particular grade level.  On the rating scale, a 3 would indicate that the child has met the grade level standards.

How can I explain to my child what score he/she received?

It is important that parents and teachers have honest conversations with students. Some concepts and skills are more difficult to grasp than others, but given time and motivation students can continually challenge themselves. Attitudes are contagious and it is important that adults involved convey to the child that learning is a process that needs to be respected. A score of 2 while learning a new skill or concept is appropriate. A
score of 3 demonstrating mastery is to be celebrated. A score of 4 indicates a strength being recognized that is above and beyond the grade level expectations.

How often are Fountas & Pinnell tests given and what do the results mean?

The Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessments are given a minimum of two times a year but many students are given the benchmark three times during the year to chart progress.  The results from this assessment can be used for many purposes such as:

  • Determining students' independent and instructional reading levels.
  • Determining reading placement levels and group students for reading instruction.
  • Selecting texts that will be productive for student's instruction.
  • Assessing the outcomes of teaching.
  • Assessing a new student's reading level for independent reading and instruction.
  • Identifying students who need intervention.
  • Documenting student progress across a school year and across grade levels.
  • Informing parent conferences.

Some skills are mentioned under reading foundational skills, reading literature, and reading informational text.  Why is there duplication?

These skills are taken directly from the common core state standards and will be assessed differently according to the genre being used for instruction.  For example, students may be able to read fluently when reading a novel, short story or poem, but struggle when reading a non-fiction text.  Vocabulary may come readily when students are reading a fictional piece, but when reading a science textbook, those words may prove more challenging.

Where can I find key terms found on the report card that may be unfamiliar to me?

Please check with the classroom teacher for more elaboration, definitions, or examples.  .

What documentation will be kept to show students’ progress? How will I be made aware of the progress of my student?

Classroom teachers will compile all data and documentation relevant to the standards based grading system.  Information will be shared during parent/teacher conferences, but teachers can also be reached via phone or email for clarification.

Are there common assessments throughout the district with common criteria?

Common assessments with common rubrics are a long range goal for the Wilson School District.  We are working on this effort as we work through this new grading procedure, aligning our assessments to the PA common core standards.

How can I help my child if he/she is not mastering a standard?

The answer to this question is dependent on the age, grade level, and maturity level of the child but in general, parents can help their students by being active in the life of the child by attending parent/teacher conferences, volunteering in the school when possible, checking progress via parent viewer or maintaining on going communication with the teacher.

What opportunities will be available for remediation and/or enrichment?

Please check with the individual teacher and/or building principal for these opportunities.

How are students with learning disabilities or English language learning needs affected by standards based grading?

Students with an IEP, 504, or English Language Learning needs will continue to receive the accommodations they are eligible to receive and they will continue to receive appropriate support and/or interventions.  Teachers will report how they are performing as measured against content standards, when those standards are not aligned with the grade level they are assigned, parents will be notified that the student proficiency report is for a standard other than that of the assigned grade.  All students benefit from having well developed lesson plans, quality instruction and assessment that informs instruction and provides meaningful, accurate feedback regarding learning.

Why does the 4th and 5th grade report card still contain a letter grade?  How does this align to the middle school?

The 4th and 5th grade progress reports use state standards to measure growth, but then point values are assigned to assignments.  This reporting system is in complete alignment with the middle school report card.

Where can I get more information about…

·      CCSS

·      Standards based grading

·      Student achievement and standards

The following resources provide additional information:

Guskey (2007/08). The Rest of the Story. Educational Leadership, 65(4), 28-35.
Kallick and Costa. Habits of Mind.
Marzano (2006). Classroom Assessment and Grading that Work.
O’Connor (2007). How to Grade for Learning.
Scriffiny (2008). Seven Reasons for Standards-Based Grading.
Wormeli (2006). Fair Isn’t Always Equal.