Letter to Students: SBG Enlightened

Sydney Krajnik, Guest Writer

My Fellow Students:

The switch to standards based grading, a very controversial change, has become widely spread throughout the US, but not many people have much knowledge about what it really means. Many websites and articles argue against the switch to SBG, but after learning more about what it really entails, I have found that these articles are too biased to give students and teachers accurate information. Though the various videos created attempt to explain what all of this means, they only created more confusion among students and staff. I recently met with Mr. Buboltz to discuss this issue and gather more information about what this change means for NHS, and he made things clearer for me and my peers. Going into this meeting, the three of us were prepared to convince the school board to steer away from SBG but, with this new information, we have a better understanding and now believe that standards based grading will be a great change for NHS. Despite all the confusion and misunderstandings of the switch to standards based grading, this change is beneficial to both staff and students.

In our current grading system, teachers face the struggle of helping students to accomplish certain learning goals because of the differences in what they’ve been taught in the past. In a standards based grading classroom, teachers can tailor lessons to the needs of their students to help them achieve these goals. In her article published in Expecting Excellence, Patricia L Scriffiny states that, “Students who struggle can continue to retest and use alternate assessments until they show proficiency, and they are not penalized for needing extended time.” In a traditional classroom, students can fall behind easily if they do not understand a topic, yet they are forced to continue in the stream of learning with everyone else. The new standards based system will allow teachers to move students forward and progress them at different paces based on how well they learn certain topics. Along with that, teachers will not be wasting class time by reteaching what students already know. Mr. Buboltz explained that practice tests will provide teachers with a better understanding of where their students are in their learning and what they still need work on to understand a concept fully. Knowing where their students are in their process of learning is a huge step toward helping guide them to accomplish the goals set for them. With this in mind, teachers can even teach a more complex version of a topic to allow students to be challenged in their learning. When looking at a better way for teachers to help students accomplish their learning goals, standards based grading is an excellent option for a new grading system.

Many students believe that SBG will “lump them into averageness,” but in reality, there cannot be a comparison between individual students’ grades because it is based on individual progress, not how well one student is doing compared to another. Now, students may feel that if they’re not doing as well as someone else in a class that the other in smarter than them. With more individualized progress, students will feel better about how they are doing in their classes. Contradictory to popular belief, standards based grading will impact students in a positive way. Students who are quick learners get bored easily in class with too many practice problems; however, standards based grading will fix that problem. As Danielle Iamarino reflects upon in her article, students who show mastery in a topic are able to focus on more challenging work that extends beyond the basics of the topic. With more challenging work students will be more engaged in their classwork instead of being bored easily by the basics of a topic they already understand. Challenging their brain to think deeper will help them both in the present and in the future. On the other hand, students who do not understand a topic right away can get the extra support they need to succeed. Teacher feedback is a major point of the standards based grading system that will tremendously affect these students. Teacherease, a helpful tool informing teachers about standards based grading, explains this as follows: “In SBG environments, better feedback accelerates learning. Instead of simply giving scores like 9/10 or 85%, teachers give feedback about the task performed and skills used. This helps students understand their current areas of improvement, and helps them reach the next level. This positive environment speeds learning and students reach higher levels of achievement — all while being deeply engaged and enjoying school.” Feedback is essential for students to learn effectively. Without feedback, students may go on to take an exam without getting a good understanding of a topic and miss out on important information that could be used in later lessons. With improved teacher feedback, students will learn easier and be less reluctant when learning new topics. Though many people believe standards based grading will be a burden for students, the truth is that it will help them succeed and thrive in their new classroom environment.

When attempting to establish a better way for students and teachers to work together to improve their learning, standards based grading is a great way to benefit both students and staff. It not only helps teachers create more in-depth lesson plans, but it allows students to excel and learn more than just the basics about a topic. Unfortunately, the majority of the student body is lost in the plan for change, as we do not have all of the information. In the process of converting to standards based grading, NHS should better inform students and parents in regards to SBG because it is beneficial to both staff and students.



Sydney Krajnik, freshmen