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 1980s and 90s, 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:

M-Met Standard

E-Emerging Toward Standard

N-Nees Improvement

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

Met-I can do this on my own without help. I can show that I understand.

Emerging-I can do this with help. I am starting to learn this but might still make mistakes.

Needs Improvement-I don't completely understand this yet. I am confused and need more help to learn this.

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 grades.

Salem City Schools Progress Reporting

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the Salem City School Division use the M.E.N. 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 middle and high school.  It is imperative that every student master this content to ensure their future success.  We believe that the M.E.N. 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 a continuum rather than a fixed point in time.

How will the M.E.N. 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 M.E.N. scoring rubric is not intended to be converted to an A-F grade scale.   A score of M indicates that the student has mastered course standards, which is what we expect of all students.  Our goal for students is that they consistently master course standards in the manner that they are taught (M) and that they strive to apply their learning to new situations.