IUSD Attempting To Switch District Schools to Standards-Based Grading System

Carly Zhou, Staff Writer 

IUSD is in its third year of a seven-year plan to implement standards-based grading. 
A standards-based grading system would only use students’ mastery of concepts as a basis for a student’s grade, placing less emphasis on assessment performance and student behavior. 
In a standards-based grading system, factors that are measured with traditional grading, such as attendance and participation, that are not directly indicative of student understanding will not be factored into the final grade. 
According to IUSD Coordinator of Data and Assessment Ms. Alyssa McCanne, these academic behaviors are, however, “still important, and they [will be] communicated separately from an academic grade”. 
This new grading system will still use aspects of traditional grading, such as transcripts and letter grades, since they are measures of student performance that are used to communicate to outside organizations, such as colleges. 
“Communicating student progress toward the standards doesn’t require a change to the actual symbols and tools we use to report,” McCanne said. “Instead, it requires what goes into calculating and creating those symbols and tools to be more accurate representations of student performance on the standards.” 
By implementing standards-based grading, IUSD aims to provide better feedback for students on what concepts they need to master, shift student mindsets to focus less on grades and more on educational growth, and have student improvement reflected in the gradebook. 
“A key idea in Standards Based Grading is accurately reporting when a student has made improvements.  This means that students have opportunities to show that their learning has increased and the grade reflects that new level of understanding,” McCanne said. “If students know that there is still a chance to demonstrate their understanding and be recognized for it in the grade, they are more likely to keep trying even if they didn’t understand a concept in the beginning.” 
The plan for the third year of the standards-based grading plan is to “refine site assessment, grading, and feedback practices to increase hope, efficacy, achievement, and accuracy for all students”, according to a pamphlet distributed to IUSD teachers.  
“In terms of a plan of action [for implementing standards-based grading this year], teachers and representatives from the district are engaging in collaborative learning about key principles, best practices, and IUSD examples in terms of standards-based grading,” IUSD Director of STEM Mr. Chris Weber said.
The administration has been collaborating with the district to implement a standards-based grading system at UHS. 
“It’s a transition period,” Vice Principal Mr. Kris Kough said. “We are supporting the district and the UHS  departments (English, Science, Mathematics, etc) are exploring standards-based grading and what would work for them.”
Many teachers are beginning to incorporate standards-based grading into classrooms across the district with the help of the district as well as other teachers. 
Some teachers, such as UHS mathematics teacher Ms. Karen Hsieh,  are in support of implementing standards-based grading in their classroom because it places more emphasis on a growth mindset. 
“What I have grown to love about standards-based grading is the value it stands for,” Hsieh said, “[which is] less of a focus on a numerical grade, and a shift to focusing on which areas students excel in and which areas students can improve.” Hsieh uses standards-based grading in her AP Statistics class. 
Some students, such as junior Emily Zhang, support the move to standards-based grading, but are wary about its implementation. 
“I think standards-based grading is important for overall assessment of a student in terms of their merit,” Zhang said, “but I think that some days students are just off their game and don’t perform as well as they would.”
However, some students, such as junior Amerdeep Passananti, oppose implementation of standards-based grading, because they believe that standards-based grading is less forgiving as a system than traditional grading. 
“I don’t think standards-based grading is as effective as it could be,” Passananti said. “With traditional grading, you have literally every percentage point from zero to 100. But standards-based grading only has a select few percentage points. I heard in [Enhanced Math 2] classes they had STEM standards-based grading, and if you missed one you had an 86… this isn’t really a lot of room for many mistakes.”
The district is not currently requiring this shift in terms of specifically instructing and mandating teachers to change practices right now. However, by the end of the seven-year plan, the district aims to have standards-based grading implemented throughout all of its schools. 
“Each year we’re taking on a different aspect… it’s like breadcrumbs to a larger goal,” McCanne said. “We don’t have a requirement that we need to change specifically, but we’re having teachers look at their current grading practices, celebrate what’s good about it and change what isn’t.” 
A grading and reporting committee put together by the district is in the process of determining what aspects of standards-based grading are non-negotiable and what is recommended.