Standards Based Grading

While grades have not always been part of formal education, they have been part of education in America for the better part of the history of schooling, or at the very least, as long as any of us can remember.   Assigning students grades based on their performance was another application of industrial practices to the classroom.  Students were graded in a manner similar to grades that might be assigned to food, clothing, other goods based on their quality, grade A eggs for example.  One of the primary purposes for grades was to allow teachers to “process” more students in a shorter period of time, moving them down the assembly line of the industrial education model.  An unintended consequence of grading was that grades became labels and students were sorted and filtered by these labels, impacting their future educational and employment opportunities

In the 1980’s and 90’s we became increasingly concerned that American students were falling behind.  At the same time, the availability of cheap unskilled labor in developing nations led to a significant reduction in employment opportunities for unskilled workers.  Additionally, advances in technology further eroded opportunities in manufacturing as automation replaced workers here and abroad.  All of these factors made it clear that, in order for our country to continue to prosper, it was critical for every child to succeed in school at a high level.  It was no longer acceptable for any student to be labeled unsatisfactory and allowed to drop from the system.

As the focus on education changed from filtering and sorting students based on their label (grade) to a system built to ensure that every student is competitive in an increasingly competitive global economy, our use of grades has also changed.  Grades are no longer a fixed label. Instead, they represent a communication tool used to let students, parents, and other stakeholders know where a student is on his or her educational journey at the time the grade is assigned; a mile marker on the student’s path to success.

As a result of this change in our use of grades, the Salem City School division has revised its progress reporting practices to align more closely with current research on effective grading practices. Our goal is to support students along a continuum of learning by helping them monitor their progress with specific feedback and provide opportunities to apply and expand their knowledge. These practices respect that students learn at different rates, at different levels, and with different degrees of interest while supporting students in mastering standards.

We believe that progress reporting should:

●     reflect the student’s current level of achievement for intended learning outcomes;

●     provide students and their parents with useful, timely, actionable information;

●     support student motivation to learn by providing feedback that assists the student in knowing the next steps in the achievement of learning outcomes; and

●     reflect student growth over the duration of the learning process.

Parents may view student progress on class assignments and standards in the PowerSchool Parent Portal. Salem sends out student progress reports every nine weeks.  Marks on the progress report indicate the student’s most recent level of mastery in the content area. The mark is not purely an average of all the marks throughout the reporting period. Instead, it indicates the student’s current level of performance based on the evidence and work throughout the reporting period and should reflect the student’s growth and progress over multiple assessment opportunities.

Progress Reporting

In grades K-5 the progress report provides marks on specific skills and work habits using:

✔ – Performs at or above grade level expectations

N – Needs additional support or practice to meet grade level expectations

4 – Exceeding/Above Grade Level Standards

3 – Meeting Grade Level Standards

2 – Developing Grade Level Standards

1 – Experiencing Difficulty Meeting Grade Level Standards

Blank indicates that the item has not been covered at this time


4-1 Scoring Rubric

4 The student’s performance on tasks and assessments demonstrates in-depth inferences and application of the information, content, processes, etc., that go beyond what was explicitly taught in class.
3 The student’s performance on tasks and assessments demonstrates no major errors or omissions regarding the information, content, processes, etc., both simple and complex, that were explicitly taught.
2 The student’s performance on tasks and assessments demonstrates major errors or omissions regarding the more complex ideas and processes; however the student does not demonstrate major errors or omissions relative to the simpler details and processes.
1 With help, the student’s performance on tasks and assessments demonstrates a partial knowledge of some of the simpler and more complex details and processes.
0 Even with help, the student’s performance on tasks and assessments indicates no understanding or skill with respect to the learning objective.

The values 3.5, 2.5, 1.5, and .5 may also be used to indicate that the student’s performance level falls between rubric levels.

Based on the scoring rubric, attainment of level 3 indicates mastery of explicitly taught content. On some assignments and assessments, the teacher will only be checking for level 3 performance or mastery and the score might be recorded as 3/3. For example, on a quick quiz of multiplication facts, the student might not have a problem that allows demonstration of level 4, application and deeper knowledge.

Sample Student-friendly Scoring Rubric

4: I know everything my teacher taught me so well that I can use it to solve new problems and in challenging activities.

3: I know everything my teacher taught in class and can show that I know it like it was taught to me.

2:  I sometimes make some mistakes or am a little confused and need some extra help from my teacher.

1: I know some of what my teacher has taught but I need a lot help from my teacher.

0: I really don’t understand what my teacher is teaching in class.

Our experience is that students understand that a mark is a tool teachers use to communicate how well students understand content standards.  Students tend to focus more on what they need to do to demonstrate how well they know the material in order to get to the next level, as opposed to a focus on earning points to improve their grade.


Salem City Schools Progress Reporting

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the Salem City School Division use the 4-1 Scoring Rubric in the elementary grades? Elementary education is focused on building the foundational skills and knowledge that students will need as they progress to the middle and high school.  It is imperative that every student master this content to ensure their future success.  We believe that the 4-1 scoring rubric provides students with a better understanding of their current level.  We also believe that students whose progress is reported in this manner tend to view learning as continuum rather than a fixed point in time.

How come my child answered everything correctly but she only received a 3?

A score of 3 indicates that the student understands the material in the same manner that it was taught.  In some cases early in the learning process the assignment might simply ask the student to apply his or her knowledge in the same manner that it was taught.  The highest score a student can achieve on that assignment is a 3.  In most cases teachers will indicate that a 3 was the highest score by scoring the assignment 3/3.

How will the 4-1 rubric affect my child’s academic history or G.P.A? 

Elementary grades are not included in the calculation of a student’s G.P.A. and are not a component of a child’s official transcript.  Elementary grades are stored in the Division’s Student Information Management System and in the child’s educational record.  Elementary grades are primarily used as a communication tool for students, parents, and teachers to monitor progress.

What is an A?

The 4-1 scoring rubric is not intended to be converted to an A-F grade scale.   A score of 3 indicates that the student has mastered course standards, which is what we expect of all students.  A score of 4 indicates that the student demonstrates in-depth inferences and application of course standards that go beyond what was explicitly taught in class. Our goal for students is that they consistently master course standards in the manner that they are taught (3) and that they strive to apply their learning to new situations (4).

If my child scored in the advanced range on the SOL test, why did he/she get a 3 on his/her progress report?

SOL test questions are developed from the SOL content standards which reflect the minimum content that should be taught in a class.  The SOL score is based on the percentage of questions that a student answers correctly.    A student who scores a perfect score on the SOL (600) has demonstrated that he/she has learned all the content standards in the manner that they were taught in class.