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Thursday, June 29, 2017

In Support of Standards Based Grading

As we enter our new school year at NFV, we have plans in place to make a significant shift in the High School Grading processes.  Of course we've been moving that direction for several years and Elementary and MS parents have been learning along with us as we smooth out the rough edges of this change.  The move to HS SBG (Standards Based Grading) is big.  Now it counts!  GPA, college admissions, scholarship applications; we understand all of this is extremely important to many students'  hopes and dreams.

Our first thought on is make sure we do no harm!  That is why we are rolling it out at the HS level after 4 years of study and application.  We have found a sensible way to calculate GPA and letter grades for HS students.  We know that several colleges are themselves shifting to SBG, and others are already receiving applicants with SBG report cards.   For a straight-forward look at what and why we are changing, here is an article for you to digest.

I am confident that this system can and will create better outcomes because we have research from the many schools that have gone before us.  If you are not convinced, here are 100 articles on SBG dating back to 1995.  I focused on one study that seemed very relevent to this change and will provide some highlights,  an academic study called The Association Between Standards-Based Grading and Standardized Test Scores in a High School Reform Model by Marty Pollio and Craig Hochbein (2015).  The researchers summarize their work in an executive summary with;
Results indicated that the rate of students earning an A or B in a course and passing the state test approximately doubled when utilizing standards-based grading practices. In addition, results indicated that standards-based grading practices identified more predictive and valid assessment of at-risk students’ attainment of subject knowledge.
Eleven high schools in Kentucky took part in this study.  A control group of 11th graders in Math and Science courses were exposed to a traditionally graded algebra course in 2010.  The treatment group took part in traditionally graded science classes and classes utilizing standards based grading in 2011.  The indicating data for the study was the relationships between classroom grades and the KCCT, Kentucky's state-wide mandatory test for student achievement.

Here's a summary of the results:
                                   # students with A's /B's          % A's and B's             % proficient KCCT scores        
Trad. Algebra 2 (2010)               466                                   40                                   26
Trad. Science    (2011)               514                                    40                                   28
SBG Algebra 2 (2011)               568                                    45                                   55      

The bottom line is relatively significant when comparing students in SBG math courses and traditionally graded math and science courses.  The stronger correlation of the SBG class to the high stakes tests is what we are after and we also achieve more proficiency in the classrooms.

The researchers' assumption is that:
 If students’ grades were a valid indicator of their learning subject content, then students who scored an A or a B in their content class should have scored proficient or above on the state accountability assessment. 
There are many other studies that show SBG can improve student achievement in state-wide or district wide assessments, but more importantly, SBG gives you the parent a more accurate indicator of your student's learning and should also correlate with community college and university entrance exams.  I have the hard copy of this paper, if you like I can send it to you, just ask, it is not available online for free.

 Our system may seem cumbersome and confusing at first, but isn't everything when we begin anew!  Bear with us, talk with us, and listen to understand. I think you'll find everyone settling into our new system over time and it will create better outcomes for your students when we do.