Why I Hate Standards Based Grading

15a30f91a0b84b7ac737c756e657813e_pinterest.comI’m not going to mince words here, I really do HATE HATE HATE standards based grading. Why? Because it explains NOTHING. The parents, children, teachers and even the administrators cannot explain exactly what a student has learned, or how well they have grasped the subject. Let me give you an example from one of my experiences:

When my daughter received her first standards based report card:

– We didn’t know what the grades meant.

– We asked our daughter what her grades meant to her and she didn’t know.

– We asked the principal and he didn’t know, he told us to ask the teachers.

– The teachers sent us lots of paperwork, but it didn’t really explain our daughters understanding of what she had been taught.

– We went to the administrators office and after a very long conversation using lots of fancy verbiage that we assumed was an attempt to confuse us, make us feel stupid, or make us leave, they finally admitted that they couldn’t tell us exactly what her grades meant.

End of Story.

What I can’t understand is how so many people believe something is wonderful when nobody can explain what it is or how it works beyond an incredibly generic and non specific concept. The people who love it will tell you it gives them so much MORE understanding of where a student is. Really? Then why can’t you explain my child’s grades when I ask for them?

Here’s another way to explain what’s wrong with standards based grading. Let’s look at the rubrics used by other schools to explain to their staff, students and parents how it works.

Rubrics for Standards Based Grading

I’m inserting links here because they all take a lot of room to explain.




Pretty clear right? *sarcasm* Every school has a different method for grading. Why is this a good thing? Where are the “standards” in standards based grading?

My child receives a “4” in Washington, but an “8” in Minnesota for the same grade. And then you have different grading rubrics for different subjects. Talk about confusing on a grand scale. They expect us to understand something completely unexplainable – AND they expect our children to understand it too.

The school will run you around with so much double speak on this subject that you are supposed to leave feeling like they are so much smarter than you. It’s not true. I am not stupid and neither are you Do not think you have to accept a ridiculous concept as having any kind of merit when it comes to your children’s futures. If they can’t explain what it means, then it has no meaning.

Grades are a tool used to measure a student’s understanding and knowledge. If a carpenter uses a fluctuating measurement system, anything they make would fall apart. So what good is a fluctuating grading system to our children? Will their futures fall apart if we keep standards based grading in our schools?

Standards Based Grading in Colville Schools (as explained to me in percentages): (if anyone at the school wants to contact me to tell me my chart is wrong, don’t bother.  I get different answers every time I ask and I don’t have room to put in a manual full of explanations – so this is my best interpretation with what I’ve been given.)

4 = 95% or better (A+)

3 = 60% to 94% (C- to A)

2 = 1 to 59%  (D to F – or student wrote their name on the paper.)

1 = Fail

As you can see, the majority of the students will receive a 3, which is anywhere from a C to an A.

The school will tell the parents;

“Your child is doing good, they are getting a 3”.

Well, what the heck does a 3 mean in the first place?

Is it an “A”, a “B”, a “C” or “Nearly failing”?

That statement is worthless when the value of the three is meaningless.

So standards based grading is great if you just want to get through school, but for those students who want to excel, it is bewildering and frustrating on every level.

My son was always grade conscious, but when they went to standards based grading, he didn’t understand his grades anymore and nobody could explain them to him. He became frustrated and apathetic because he didn’t understand what was expected of him and what he WAS doing no longer had any meaning.

For the rest of his school career, he just muddled his way through by pleasing the teachers. This ridiculous system taught him to just ‘do as he was told’. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with actually learning (or teaching?) the subject matter – which is what we thought school was for in the first place.


For some reason, in standards based grading, tests now only have 2 to 4 questions. Let me explain this by comparing the number of test questions with grading differences:

10 Question test: Each question gives 10% towards a grade of 100.

100% 10 out of 10 correct (Grade A+)

90% 9 out of 10 correct (Grade A)

80% 8 out of 10 correct (Grade B)

70% 7 out of 10 correct (Grade C)

60% 6 out of 10 correct (Grade D)

50% 5 out of 10 correct etc. (Grade F)

*** Miss five questions and you will receive a failing grade.***

4 Question test: Each question gives 25% towards a grade of 100.

100% 4 out of 4 correct (Grade A)

75% 3 out of 4 correct (Grade C)

50% 2 out of 4 correct (Grade F)

25% 1 out of 4 correct (Grade F)

*** Miss two questions and you will receive a failing grade. (B’s and D’s no longer exist) ***

2 Question test: Each question gives 50% towards a grade of 100.

100% 2 out of 2 correct (Grade A)

50% 1 out of 2 correct (Grade F)

*** Miss one question and you will receive a failing grade. ***

The more questions on a test, the easier it is to pass the test, or get a good grade. The less questions, the easier it is to fail and the less ability to have any mid range grades (B, C, D). I also believe that more test questions give a better overall view of a students knowledge on the subject.

I had a teacher tell me that having less questions on a test lets the teachers know if the student knows the subject or not. Well, let me tell you from a parents stand point; I think teachers like less questions on the tests because they have less work to do.

That’s my personal opinion because I think if the schools were trying to raise a students confidence, they would put more questions on the tests.

I mean really – miss one question and you fail?

How does that raise a students confidence level?

In my opinion all that does is raise the student’s stress level for tests.

I’d like to give a shout out to Principal Kevin Knight who is fighting against standards based grading at the high school. He says that standards based grading does not transfer over to colleges, so he wants to keep the “old system of grading” (my words). Problem is he is being out voted in many ways by teachers and the administration. Speaking of teachers, let’s not forget those teachers who secretly hate standards based grading, but cannot speak up for fear of their jobs.

2013-08-21-09-33-32-holding hands_pixgood.comYour rights as a parent and students:

We all have a say in this matter. Don’t think for a minute that you don’t. School affects every child’s future.

If we believe the practices used in our schools are detrimental to the future of our children, then we have every right to stand up and voice our objections.

We don’t have to let the school’s bully us into something we don’t want.

If you don’t understand the grading system or don’t like it for any reason what so ever,

ask the teachers to give you a percentage grade. Insist on it.

What good is a grade if it has no clarity or meaning?

If parents and students work together on these things, we may be able to get standards based grading thrown out of our schools and sensible grading practices brought back in. When we try to work on these issues  individually, the school tells us, “You are the only one that doesn’t like it, I’ve never heard any other complaints.” I don’t believe that garbage for a minute and I never have! That’s just someone’s way of shutting you up.

It doesn’t matter what other people think when it comes to your children – or to a student’s own future; stand up and ask for those percentage grades!

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