Letter to Students: SBG Benefits Students

Mason Meacham, Guest Writer

Dear Fellow Students:

Standards Based Grading. I recognize that those three words leave a sour taste in the mouths of most students. I too very much expected to be writing an essay in opposition of the new grading system when I chose this topic. However, what I found in my research surprised me. I discovered that Standards Based Grading can actually benefit students, as the system accurately represents their individual talents rather than lump them all into one singular grade along with heavily reducing the amount of meaningless “busy work.”

Those opposed to the new grading system will make claims such as the 3 or 4 point scale will “lump students into averageness.” However, this is made with the assumption that students will be graded using the same factors as the old system (attitude, effort, behavior, etc.) and then calculated into one total score, when in fact SBG will show how a student scored in individual aspects of learning rather than sloshing it all into one letter grade, as evidenced in Guskey and Bailey’s book “Developing Standards-Based Report Cards”: “They need to help parents understand that when teachers assign a single letter grade or percentage to students for each subject studied or each course taken, they must combine many diverse sources of evidence into that one mark. This results in what researchers refer to as a “hodgepodge grade” that includes elements of achievement, attitude, effort, and behavior.” This change will benefit students and teachers greatly by telling them both which areas the student needs to improve in as opposed to just looking at a B- and saying “you need to do better next time”. Not only will SBG tell a student when they need to put in more effort or behave better in the classroom, the system will break down a student’s learning progression in all of their learning targets, as explained in Guskey and Bailey’s “Developing Standards-Based Report Cards”:  “Furthermore, a standards based report card breaks down each subject area or course into specific elements of learning… A single grade of C, for example, might mean a modest level of performance on three goals but dismal performance on two others. Without the breakdown that standards based reporting offers, the difference would be obscured”. This breakdown of learning targets is great for a student’s learning, as this insight is way more useful to the student in comparison to a letter grade as the student looks to improve their skills and continue their learning. Some of those who are still skeptical will point to the 100 point scale, saying how teachers can grade a student more accurately using the current system because 100 points allows for more difference between students as opposed to the 3 point scale. However, in a recent interview, Neenah Associate Principal Chad Buboltz, who says that he has been looking into the topic for 8 years, told me otherwise “That 100 point scale has actually proven to be less reliable and less valid than a 3 point or 4 point scale… the research is pretty overwhelming that a 100 point scale is not valid or reliable”. After analyzing the evidence, one should find that SBG will most certainly not “lump people into averageness.”

Not only does SBG help the student by stretching out their report card and breaking down their learning, it will make make life more convenient for you as well, cutting down on the dreaded “busy work”. Instead, the work that a student receives will only be given if it is really needed for the child’s learning progression, Mr. Buboltz tells me: “In (SBG), your teachers will give a lot of practice. In math, they’ll give you a lot of problems. If you figure it out in one problem, you don’t need to practice anymore. If you figure it out in 15 problems, you’re gonna need more practice”. This means that if you do not need further work on a certain topic; you understand that topic, then you will not receive further, meaningless assignments in that area and can instead focus your efforts elsewhere. Mr. Chad Buboltz further elaborates on this: “Let me give you a metaphor for that… I would always put the best free throw shooters in at the end of the game. How would I know who they were? They were the kids who performed best in practice.” What Mr. Buboltz is saying is that students will get enough practice within the classroom that they will be ready for the game, i.e. the test. A student will not be put into the game (take the test) until they readily prepared to do so, which in turn gives more meaning to the assignments given in the classroom. Altogether, SBG gives more meaning to the work assigned in class while letting students focus their attention on areas they need to improve in.

All in all, Standards-Based Grading will benefit students by assessing them in each separate facet of their learning experience along with giving more meaning to the work given to students, while simultaneously cutting down on the dreaded “busy work.” While the school really is the culprit of the lack of knowledge regarding SBG among the student populace, there are many benefits of this new system. So I encourage the students to go out and discover for yourselves, simple as that. Look into SBG more, with a new perspective. Tell your friends to do the same; tell them what you have learned, tell them how learning will be more convenient with SBG. And perhaps the once sour taste will be palatable.


Mason Meacham, freshman