WEST CHICAGO – In an effort to assess students based on what they know and are able to do – rather than how many points they accumulate – West Chicago Elementary School District 33 has begun using standards-based grading.
As District 33 went through its strategic planning process in 2010, district leaders decided on a series of learning standards that reflect what they believe students at each grade level should be able to achieve. The standards are aligned with Common Core.
“Some things we’re really proud of in the standards-based grading project is that it’s helped one, with communication with our parents, and second, it’s directly contributed to increased student achievement,” District 33 Board of Education President Brenda Vishanoff said April 10 at a town hall on the new grading system.
Under a traditional grading system, students’ grades reflect their scores on quizzes, tests, homework, projects and more. They are based on several factors to a varying degree, such as achievement, effort and behavior. Late penalties and extra credit also may affect students’ point totals.
However, in a standards-based grading system, grades are based solely on students’ achievement of certain standards, such as being able to identify three-dimensional figures or use clocks to tell, write and show time. Grades are not affected by effort, behavior, late penalties or extra credit.
“We want our students to focus on the learning,” said Kristina Davis, assistant superintendent for learning. “That’s the difference in standards-based grading reporting ... to ensure that our students, our parents, our teachers are really focusing on those targets, those learning standards, not on the accumulation of points.”
Having set standards helps to monitor all students’ learning against the same goals so that no one is left behind, Davis said. Because children learn in many different ways, teachers use a variety of methods to assess them, she added.
English-language learners and students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are graded based on mastery of the same learning standards as their grade-level peers, but they also are assessed in other ways to reflect their progress, Davis said.
In addition to issuing standards-based report cards for students, District 33 also uses another report for all students called a Learning Feedback Skills Rubric. This document lets parents know how students are doing in the areas of participation, work completion, behavior and working with others – items no longer included on report cards in the standards-based system.
So far, the new report cards were introduced for math in fall 2013. Assessments for standards-based grading are expected to be introduced for language arts in the district this fall. Finalized language arts report cards will then be used in fall 2015.