Over the past several years, teachers in Salem City Schools have focused on Assessment FOR Learning practices in order to provide students and parents with specific feedback that reflects student achievement on specific learning goals.  This provides students with the information they need in order to take the necessary steps to improve in areas where they have not yet demonstrated mastery.  Progress reporting that focuses on how well each student meets learning goals, or standards, is referred to as standards-based grading.

One of the limitations of most grading programs is that they record and report grades by assignment rather than reporting grades for specific learning goals or standards.  For example, when students complete work they receive one grade for each assignment based on how well they performed on the total assignment rather than individual grades or scores illustrating how well they had mastered the various standards associated with the work.  Similarly, students would receive one mark on their report card to represent how well they had mastered the learning goals associated with a specific area of study, a 3, an 88, or a B in math for example, rather than a series of scores indicating how well they have mastered each of the standards they studied in math during the grade reporting periods.

Fortunately, the national focus is beginning to shift toward measuring and reporting student growth and achievement based on standards.  As a result, programs that school divisions use to record and report student achievement are beginning to make changes that will help teachers provide students and parents with more specific feedback that communicates how well students have mastered specific content standards.  So, instead of providing one score on an assignment, teachers will have the ability to score each standard individually.

By providing students and parents with more specific feedback by standard, students are no longer left to wonder why the received a B on a test.  Instead, they know which standard or standards they have not yet mastered, and they can work with their teacher to learn and practice the skill in an effort to improve their mastery level.  This leads to a focus on learning rather than a focus on earning points.  Instead of asking, “How can I raise my B to an A?” students begin asking, “What do I need to do to demonstrate mastery of adding and subtracting fractions?”

While significant progress is being made in the area of standards-based grading, this practice, and the tools necessary to record and report student progress by standard are relatively new.  We believe that providing students and parents with specific feedback by standard is a priority.  Therefore, the division will continue to expand its knowledge and use of standards-based grading practices and the tools available to record and report student growth and achievement by standard.  We believe that this will empower students to take ownership of his or her learning goals and lead to higher levels of content mastery.