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What is standards-based grading (SBG)? SBG is a classroom educational approach allowing teachers to measure and record a student’s comprehension of the content taught.

The principle involves developing the student’s skills required to master the subject content by the end of the course.

Traditional educational grading systems were established to categorize a student’s mastery level of a subject. Overtime standards-based grading vs. traditional grading systems has been incorporated into today’s educational forums to fulfill academic requirements. How the two systems provide value to a student’s education continues to be the focus. Unlike the standards-based grading scale, the traditional percentile system does not give a formal progress evaluation of the student’s classroom work.

In some situations, educators have reservations about the traditional grading system’s accuracy for grouping a student’s mastery. The issue became more predominant as parents realized their children struggled with a particular subject. SBG became the solution, designed to help students reach their highest potential based on evidence of a student’s understanding and proficiencies related to the lesson.

SBG gained more recognition as student numbers, and classroom diversity (social, language) increased. The change prompted a need to be able to respond to individual learning. For the student to succeed, the teacher needed to modify how the lesson was taught to match individual student needs and still meet classroom academics. Since academic requirements remain constant, teachers began adapting SBG processes (evaluations) as part of classroom schooling.

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SBG strategies, benefits, and achievements

Educationally, the standards-based grading scale offers teachers and students an enhancement tool for learning. Some educators view the SBG as a critical component of learning; teachers can measure a student’s current competencies compared to traditional percentile grading defined by academic expectations. The primary difference between standards-based and traditional grading is the ability to weigh individual needs within specific education classes or groups. Traditional grading systems have played an essential role outside the classroom for many within the academic profession. Even though traditional grading may have appeared outdated, both have a distinction in today’s scholastic systems.

SBG strategies were developed to focus on the student’s present progress:

  • Instructional practices are blended with classroom culture participation.
  • Teachers can assess a student’s schooling level, rate of progress, and subject proficiency.
  • Students acquire the skill of knowledge to succeed in school.

The benefits of bringing SBG into the classroom have proven to improve student performance. Data results confirm accelerated learning as teachers provide feedback directly to the student on the tasks and the skills needed to complete the course with proficiency.

The feedback has taken on a student-friendly format that covers the following:

  • Content, lesson goals, and instructional communications.
  • Subjects are mapped into steps to improve students’ acceleration of learning.

Although student faces of terror still occur from time to time, the fear of failure has diminished as students gain a better understanding of how to reach the next level of instruction.

  • Students learn what’s needed to succeed, empowering them to engage in classroom work.
  • Armed with the ability to self-assess, students can incrementally identify areas of improvement.
  • Students can now benchmark their classroom accomplishments linked to course grades.

Understanding the nuances of standard-based grading

Standards-based grading scale helps prepare students to reach their full potential. Teachers administer classroom requirements that lead to future academic achievements. The question of the day for parents and educational administrators has to do with the value of assessment influencing a student’s performance based on standards-based grading vs. traditional grading systems.

Looking at the SBG model focuses on the evidence of students learning and the method of how grading points are computed for accuracy and reliability. Grades are calculated individually as students demonstrate learned knowledge by participating in subject-related projects, quizzes, essays, or presentations. Teachers then assess the student’s level of mastery related to the classwork.

  • Assessments identify individual strengths and practice skills to improve comprehension.
  • Teachers use the assessment to identify the area they need to teach.
  • SBG grading has become useful for teaching students without diminishing the lesson’s content.

Whereas the way traditional grading measures a student’s achievements is associated with academic expectancies. Traditional grading systems treat every student equally without consideration of the student’s depth or lack of mastery when processing the final grade. In some instances, the process presents a higher grade signifying an advanced understanding and mastery of the lesson subject. This particular outcome is not always educationally accurate, even though it continues to be an accepted practice.

Features of traditional grading systems provide:

  • Standardized record-keeping is recognized from school to school or state to state.
  • Grades represent a student’s overall achievement based on performance expectations.
  • Peer comparison (grading curve) provides a median on student standing, not an individual accomplishment.

Although there are preferences as to which system works best in the classroom environment, both grading systems share the goal of educating all students. The SBG educational process proposes how the systems inspire students to learn and how well students learn the subject content. The traditional grading system creates a median based on students’ educational components. Bottom-line, SBG evaluations are helping teachers to change classroom approaches. As part of the classroom lesson, teachers now incorporate how to apply individual practices to learning the subject taught.

Schooling assessments across the board

Typically, classroom curriculums are developed according to educational standards. As a responsive teaching format, the standards-based grading scale supports the diversity found within the student culture. The goal is to teach at a learning pace that allows the student to comprehend and absorb the information in preparation for the next session.

  • Students must understand the course requirements, classroom activities, and grading systems.

Student assessments have been helpful for teachers in developing the in-process course study for improving individual student study practices. Since the teacher is in the classroom, who better evaluates a student’s proficiency?

  • Teachers’ knowledge is gained through assessing student classroom achievements.
  • SBG practices weigh a student’s ability to meet current and future educational objectives.

The teacher and the student achieve a student’s final mastery of the course material. The involvement includes an awareness of standards-based grading vs. traditional grading. The practical solutions need to address how and why each method is necessary for completing the course successfully.

  • Assessments of individual learning standards are aligned with the described educational expectations.
  • Classroom standards are substantiated by demonstrating a student’s knowledge and skill.

Teacher and classroom challenges

The challenge for teachers is accomplishing individual student achievements along with the class to meet academic requirements. Teachers see SBG as a positive step to acquiring information about students needing extra guidance. The task for teachers is structuring the SBG classroom lessons and the curriculum requirements within the same timeframe.

Accomplishing this teaching task involves the following:

  • Classroom activities are broken into practice segments to help students understand the content through application processes.
  • Role-playing and practicing with peers are safe havens for sharing mistakes and motivational learning avenues.

As teachers watch the interaction between students, it’s an opportunity to gather essential information on areas students struggle to learn. Another interactive activity that provides fundamental student evaluation data includes focused questions:

  • Requiring students to answer specific questions about the lesson reveals what they need to learn.
  • Students’ response demonstrates what they understand.

These classroom activities provide valuable information for teachers as the course progresses. Here the teacher can create a checkoff list for the lesson content and individual student appraisals toward completing the course. Depending on the educational level, SBG evaluations can help students who may be failing but still have time to complete the course successfully. This situation is where the SBG evaluation process benefits the student, as traditional grading systems may have derogatory consequences linked to low final grading practices.


Academically the student’s outcome relies on the grading systems to move on to the next level of education. When classes begin, each student starts with a clean slate. As students progress and make mistakes, grades inevitably begin to drop in a traditional grading system environment. The action triggers a student’s stress that can interfere with a student’s ability to focus. When SBG learning instructional methods are applied, teachers can work with the student by developing a study plan to increase the final grade.

  • Teachers must reassure the student that mistakes are a form of learning.
  • Mistakes are resolved by encouraging students to develop better study habits.
  • Students realize earning a good final grade is doable.

When a student cannot keep pace with the rest of the group, SBG assessments may provide a workable solution for the student without altering the course curriculum. Based on the student’s work assessments, the teacher can define the instructional tools to end individual student difficulties.

  • Teachers’ ultimate goal is to provide students with the education to master academic content.
  • SBG methods reinforce study attributes for successful learning beyond school.
  • Classroom elements encompass the standards-based grading scale to meet formal educational requirements.

Benefits of the SBG system comprised of student evaluations include:

  • Mastery of the course material is accomplished with improved comprehension skills.
  • Students learn how to assess their progress to complete future education goals.
  • Academic opportunities increase as learning methods help to raise final grades.
  • Students learning proficiencies become lifetime aptitudes.

The SBG model improves the use of instruction time for the teacher while increasing a student’s academic advancement. Classroom environments become more positive as students’ learning accelerates through ongoing assessments, and interactive lessons help to make school more enjoyable.