Standards Based Grading in a percentage based world

I’m participating in the math blogging initiative and thankfully the list of writing prompts is not intimidating. I could write about how I chose the name for my blog—I am extremely curious and I want my students to be too. But I really want to talk about something else. Something that has piqued my curiosity.

Standards based grading. It’s what I want to implement this year and yet I need to do this within the limitations of our district’s percentage based gradebook reporting system. It appears my colleague from the other middle school and I will be the first in our district to implement it. I’ve been reading blogs and Marzano’s work all summer so I think I know what I’m getting into. But I need your feedback.

I have the formative and summative assessment pieces identified with the standards, I’ve created standards based student goal setting sheets (they can be found here), and I know how to score using the 4 point rubric. The hurdle is “How do I report grades based on Marzano’s 4 point scale and not freak out the students and parents?”

The following idea isn’t pure SBG, but it’s the best workaround for now.

If a teacher is “stuck” in a percentage based report card environment but wants to report standards based grades, Marzano offers a conversion chart:

Scale Score Percentage Score
4 100
3.5 95
3.0 90
2.5 80
2.0 70
1.5 65
1.0 60
Below 1.0 50

I plan to set up a weighted gradebook as follows:

  • All formative “assessments” are 4 points, based on the scale.
  • All summative assessments are 100 points.

The weights are:

  • Formative: 0%
  • Summative: 95%
  • Practice: 5% (The practice piece is an FYI. It is incidental to what I am trying to accomplish.)

The formative category allows me to keep a running record on how each student is progressing towards mastery.

The summative grade is determined by the students’ current level of mastery based on the most recent formative.

For example:

Susie’s initial formative assessment for Standard 6G1 is a score of 2. In the gradebook I create an assignment “6G1—Area 1”. The assignment is “worth” 4 points and it is placed in the formative category with no weight. I then create an assignment for the summative category 6G1—Area. Since Susie’s first score is a 2, according to the conversion chart, I enter a grade of 70.

Four days later Susie takes another formative assessment on 6G1. This time she earns a score of 3. In the gradebook I create an assignment “6G1—Area 2,” assign it to the formative category with no weight and enter her score of 3. Since Susie is now at a 3, I overwrite the previous summative entry with a grade of 90.

At this point the gradebook entries are:

2 formative assessments for standard 6G1—Area 1 and Area 2

1 summative assessment for standard 6G1—Area

Plus any homework practice logged as completion

In effect there will be one summative for each standard plus at least 2-3 formatives for that standard. I know two to three formative assessments may not be enough for some students to demonstrate proficiency or mastery. If need be, they can arrange a time during homeroom or after school to “show what they know.”

In the end the 95% weighted summatives will be averaged and the 5% weighted practice is factored in to the students’ grade. Since the summatives all have the same 100 point score, no standard is “worth more” than another.

Do you think it will work? What’s your experience with SBG?

47 thoughts on “Standards Based Grading in a percentage based world

  1. Hi, We have been doing standards based grading in our math classes for a couple years now. Our conversions are: 4 = 100%, 3.5 = 95%, 3 = 90%, 2.5 = 75%, 2 = 60%, below a 2 does not get a percentage, the student has not met the requirement so they simply are incomplete (no failures). One thing through experience that we have found is that we don’t convert until it is time to give an overall grade. We leave everything out of level 4 all semester, determine the current level in all of the standards, determine the student’s overall grade (out of 4) and THEN convert to a percentage. If you convert along the way and your increments aren’t even it will skew the grades. If you leave out of 4, everything is even increments so you don’t have that problem. The other thing we found is that by leaving out of 4, we are training our students and parents to not be concerned about the percentage! That is what we are trying to get away from. We want them to focus on learning and improving each standard according to the rubric. A percentage may shut them down from wanting to improve. That is just what we have found. I teach in a grade 9 – 12 school and we have even gone as far at to only do conversions for grades 10 – 12 because our Ministry of Education requires a percentage at that level. Our grade 9’s simply get a score out of 4 at the end of the year. Our school division is moving towards K-9 being totally percentage free. I have started blogging about our experiences with SBG if you want to read more. Good luck this year!

    1. The other thing we found is that by leaving out of 4, we are training our students and parents to not be concerned about the percentage! That is what we are trying to get away from. We want them to focus on learning and improving each standard according to the rubric. A percentage may shut them down from wanting to improve.

      I so appreciate your feedback. I agree 100% with your comment. The whole idea is to focus on the learning, not the grade. If I continue as planned, I’m still focusing on the grade! We must, however, report interim progress. Do you suggest I create summative scores for the sole purpose of reporting the interim progress, then move the summative score into the 0% category?

      Can you elaborate on “leaving everything out of level 4”? Not sure what you mean by that.

      1. At interim we received permission from our admin to leave our gradebook “blank” and instead commented to “please see the attached progress report” in which we printed out a progress report. Here is a post I did about our progress reports: I know it is hard to see, but the second picture shows what each student would have received at interim. It shows each assessment that has been completed as a score out of 4. We do not weight anything. In our gradebook everything would have a weight of 0%. We determine our current levels by looking at growth or consistency. From there, when we have to then convert a final grade, at this point in time we average the current levels (equal weight) and then convert to a percentage. If this still doesn’t help you please let me know and I’ll try to elaborate!

      2. Carey, Thanks for the video link and your specific, detailed post. It appears you should be working for Marzano! You have an incredibly strong handle on what SBG is all about, know how to implement it, and get results. Re: progress reports–I would need to receive permission to communicate those reports in paper fashion, as well as leaving the gradebook blank. One would think, however, parents would welcome a more detailed description of their child’s progress such as the one in your post. You’ve given me more to consider.

    2. I still don’t understand the intervals for example an A would equal what on the scale 4.0-3.5?

      1. Hi John,

        Here’s what I use:
        4.0 = 100% A+
        3.5 = 95% A
        3.0 = 90% A-
        2.5 = 80% B-
        2.0 = 75% C
        1.5 = 65% D
        1.0 = 60% D-
        Below 1.0 = 50% F

        I wish I didn’t have to translate the scale into percentages or letter grades, but that’s the scale I use. I hope I’ve answered your question. It’s great that you are investigating. Please read Mike’s comment below. He articulates very well his vision of SBG being tied to Bloom’s.

        Thanks for your inquiry.

  2. I think this could work well. I piloted SBG last year and we struggled with how to track multiple assessments for the same standard. Your system seems like a nice way to track that progression very visually (our workaround involved looking at the history, manually, for each standard when needed). I would suggest thinking strongly about whether you want to use a pure weighted average to report your final scores though; we ended up doing a spreadsheet that calculated mean, median and mode for each marking period and then determined a final grade from there.

    Good luck! I am not at a standards based school this next year and I know I will miss it!

  3. I would like to know what the process was in informing parents of the change in the way the teacher/school/district is going to grade. Were letters sent home? Was there a parent night? If anyone has any feedback or suggestions I would love to hear about it.

      1. We sent a letter home – And found that the sixth grade students/parents really didn’t have a big transition, because they are SO USED to the idea of meeting/exceeding standard at the elementary level. The 7th & 8th graders struggled more because they had had 1-2 years of traditional grading under their belts.

        What gradebook program do you use? We were able to “redefine” grades in our gradebook so that a 3.6-4.0 reported as an A, 2.8-3.59 reports as a B, etc.

      2. That seems logical. In elementary, parents are used to seeing narrative report cards. Our district uses an online gradebook reporting system called eschool Home Access. The software is a part of a much larger data warehouse program that is capable of tracking student attendance, their schedules, etc. I’m not sure if the company has plans to offer an upgrade SBG gradebook software. Before the district invested in this product, we used Making the Grade and that program allowed teachers to redefine grades. I do appreciate you sharing your experience. It is incredibly helpful.

      3. We did create a video. This was created a couple years ago and the look of our rubrics and progress reports have changed slightly, but all in all the message is the same. We also communicate through emails with parents. We explain it in our course outlines. We do a meet the teacher night at the start of the year where we discuss this. We also do a community council evening where assessment policies are discussed. We have found it better to overcommunicate with parents! The first year we had lots of questions and concerns, but once we addressed the fact that this is geared towards learning, you get a clearer picture of what your student does/does not know, AND we will still provide the necessary “percentage grade” so they can get into University most were okay with it. After 2 1/2 years of this the understanding is pretty strong.

    1. In our district we held several parent meetings. Two were in conjunction with “Coffee and Conversations” that the Superintendent does each semester. We also offered to speak at back to school nights, PTA meetings, and church or other local group events. At registration a letter was given to the parents along with a copy of the new report card. With our English Language Learner families, we had interpreters help us at different places around the district to help those parents too. The Teaching and Learning department also developed a lesson plan (one for primary and one for secondary in elementary) for the kids to learn about the report card and then an assignment for them to do with their parents. This was even videotaped so the teachers could show the video. We also offered private sessions with parents once the report card came out. It was very well received because of all the ground work we did before the report card went home.

      1. I appreciate you sharing your district’s experience with rolling out SBG. While we have a ways to go in my district, other readers will benefit from your experience. Thanks again!

  4. Hi everyone! I really like the idea of “removing the focus from the grade”. It is a steep uphill climb, since for decades, if not centuries, we’ve all been in a system where a lot of rewards, punishments and decisions have been based on grades. To really shift the focus of our learners (and parents) to learning, our best bet I guess will still have to be hinged on grades: authentic and valid grading systems that really rewards those who are learning and holds back those who are not learning (and those who refuse to learn).

    I have some concerns about the transmutations from the 4-point rubric to percents… What’s the basis of making 3 a 90% and 2 a 70%? No offense meant, but this further distorts the beauty and purity of numbers. 3 out of 4 is clearly 75% – the commonly accepted passing mark in the percentage-based grading system. Also, 3 is the acceptable, “meets standards” level in the 4-point rubrics.

    I suggest therefore the following conversion (which 5th graders should know well)

    4 = 100% honorific performance, exceeds standards, goes beyond expectations
    3.5 = 88% above standard, but not yet honorific
    3 = 75% meets standards, passable
    2.5 = 63% below passing
    2 = 50% below passing, needs assistance

    I know this may look harsh (evil), but I think distorting reality in an effort to be kind does more evil and misguidance in the long run. We just need to be as kind as possible as teachers in dealing with our students, to guide them in aiming for the passing marks and higher.

    1. As you know the 4 point rubric is closely tied to the GPA. So my assumption is the “values” of 4, 3, 2, 1 are consecutive “label” equivalents to the alpha order letter grades A, B, C, D, F. My assumption was a bit off, but this article expresses it more clearly, if the article is accurate. Frankly, I don’t have time to vet it, but I’ll trust it for now. Either way, converting letter grades to a numerical score will not change any time soon.

      Jayvee, I’m interested in learning your views on the extent to which teachers should remediate. What should teachers do for students who, as you say, aren’t learning (and those how refuse to learn)?

      1. I think some teachers are good in helping students who need remediation. Some teachers aren’t good at it, or do not want to do it, because they want to channel their energy and time on pushing the better students to higher and higher levels of understanding. Teachers should be given freedom to choose their roles according to their gifts and inclinations. Sometimes though, teachers will just have to rotate on these roles to avoid boredom and burnout. 🙂

        Most teachers tend to “teach to the middle” – the better students are under-challenged, while the lower group lags behind. Thus it makes sense to just let the fast learners zoom ahead and do more challenges. I’ve been trying to do the flipped classroom of Salman Khan these past weeks. (

        For those who have difficulty “getting it” in class, consultations and tutorials can help. For those who “refuse” to learn, the school counselors should come in to help. 🙂

      2. I would imagine if a school allows the teacher freedom to make those decisions then it must have a structure/system in place to make that happen. Just a rhetorical question, no need to respond, but I wonder how such a structure would impact a student’s self concept? Would it send a message to the student that the teacher is not worthy of his/her time?

        I don’t thinking you are suggesting teachers abandon their students needs for the personal satisfaction of following their preferences. If that were the case then a school’s structure is the factory model, and students are widgets.

        Different note: If you are chronicalling your flipped classroom, I’d be interested in following your adventure.

    2. I know when we first started we were thinking of these levels as 2/4, 3/4, etc and so by converting a fraction to a percent I’d agree with you. However, as we studied and went further on this we realized that these aren’t /4. They are levels on a scale. We don’t write 3/4 we simply say level 3. In fact we are even debating getting rid of the number and simply using names ie. intervention (1), instructional (2), independent (3), mastery (4). This would definitely eliminate the problem.
      Once we started looking at WHAT we are asking the kids to do at each level it was a lot easier to convert. (Totally off topic – I would love to NOT have to convert – what does a percentage truly tell us? I’d rather leave everything as communicated by standard, no overall grade!) According to Marzano (Formative assessment and standards based grading page 50), level 3 is target learning goal and level 2 is simple learning goal. Level 1 is in need of help. My interpretation is that the target learning goal is more than a “pass”. The simple learning goal would be closer to the “passing” grade. In our province a pass is 50%… thus we made our level 2 a 60% and our 3 a 90% as what we are asking our students to do for a level 3 is traditionally what would have given a higher percentage score. Just another way to think about it….

      1. Hi Carey and Mary. It’s been a while since I last read the thread. Here goes…

        I really like SBG in the sense that it really focuses on the learning… What students have successfully learned to do and what students still need help on. We all know how the percentage based grading misses the point: If the set passing mark is 75%, then teachers are told to make at least 75% of the items easily doable for most students (low level, simple recall, very easy). Teachers have difficulty making the remaining 25% questions high level and challenging (HOTS) – items that really test whether students are attaining the standards. To make our lives easier (students easily pass) we tend to just make 2 points out of 20 of the higher level. In this set-up, we fool ourselves that students are attaining standards, getting consistent 16/20 in quizzes (above 75%), while they are NOT getting those 2 points in the HOTS items.

        SBG is easier in performance-based subjects: in pre-school levels: whether a child can already write all 26 letters and recite the alphabet. In physical education: whether a student can sustain a 15-minute run. But its a lot difficult in Math. And Science.

        Do you make 4-point rubrics to see if a student can already convert fractions to decimals? (primary level) Or to see if students can make sense of vertical asymptotes? (secondary level) That’s why we still go back to percentages. I can confidently say, “Yes, your child knows her fractions and decimals.” if we can see her test paper with a score of 15/20, assuming that the test is valid – that is, more than 5 pts are at the HOTS level (not at most). “She was able to get this HOTS item… the 5 mistakes are just sheer carelessness.” The effectiveness of the system depends on the depths of the test items and the set passing marks.

        I’ve seen good tests from Singapore schools and in their books, where they grade students NOT on percentages, but on the levels of questions that students are able to answer correctly. Getting past the 1st set earns the passing mark, say C. Getting past the 2nd level (more analysis level) get them to B. Getting correct answers in items in the 3rd level earns the A. I’m looking into this now and I’m wondering how I can adapt this. I think this system effectively does away with the percentages, and challenges students to work their way up to meet standards.

        Going back to Mary’s concern on students’ self esteem… their not deserving of the teachers’ time and attention: I agree that this is a concern for younger students. I’m from the High School… and you are right. We have structures here on how this is done effectively (I think) so students’ need for help are addressed, while teachers are not bogged down to teach to the middle.

        On the flipped classroom practice: one limitation I’m contending with right now is the availability of internet connection in classrooms. This will be easier with good internet connection and the availability of computers right in the classrooms. We are starting 1-on-1 computing using tablets now with 1st year students. I’m excited to see my colleagues do the flipped classroom with this batch. This is really one way of maximizing the use of available technology for teaching and learning.

  5. As you know I am one who not only thinks outside the box but also one who lives outside the box and has spent most of my life looking for the box that others talk about. Having said that I want to provide another lens for you to view your thinking on SBG.

    “Creating wonder in the rabbit hole named school” as the subtheme to your blog title theme is something to “wonder and to ponder.” It would be of great joy for me to read your blog about the wonder of student learning in a non assessed driven educational community and to see the joy of learning that comes from an approach to teaching without both educators and students being assessed on what they did or did not learn or how well the teacher taught or did not teach. Is the pure joy and delight of learning without judgment forever gone?

    I understand how schools are expecting educators to use SBG but since I went to a school through 6th grade where we did not get grades on projects or for the classes, it is always hard for me to “grade” a student. I went to school to learn, to have fun, and to see my friends. Once grades entered the picture learning took a divergent path.

    I can honestly assess students and I can honesty assess student work and I can give honest feedback to parents. For me to give a grade to a student is something that is still hard for me to do as an educator. I have taught both at the college level and in private schools where grades were not given but assessments and feedback were. Such assessments and feedback take a lot of time and great reflection on student work to write and I assess students as individuals and not as a collective. Plus such assessments use way less math and fewer students fighting for “points” they think they should have received.

    You and I have done research together on student perception of teachers. It would be “curiouser” to explore how students view assessment, esp. SBG. Although, I think most students would be somewhat biased in favor of grades since most students have never gone to school without getting grades or being graded.

    Wouldn’t it be great if students knew the standards they were being “graded?” I believe that students should know the standards or goals of why they are being “taught’” what they are being “taught” and in the same view they should also be allowed to provide feedback or suggestions on how they get assessed.

    I know many educators may not support these concepts – but such concepts and strategies have been practiced for decades and are still practiced in some schools today. So as curiouser is to curiouser I suggest you create a small advisory board of your students for some basic feedback on your thoughts posed on this blog posting.

    When you write, “ I’ve created standards based student goal setting sheets (they can be found here), and I know how to score using the 4 point rubric. The hurdle is “How do I report grades based on Marzano’s 4 point scale and not freak out the students and parents?”

    Why not change the “I” to “my students and I” and get some of their feedback?

    I have my 50th high school class reunion in a couple of weeks – it will be fun to see how my friends, the other non graded students in my generation are doing today and wonder if we would have been more successful if we had received grades. Most of the 50 years since I graduated from high school I have been an educator. I have seen many changes in education during that time span come and go and the current focus on assessment assessment assessment is one I hope does not stay for long.

    1. Fawn,

      We’re working on it! A draft of rubrics for the 6th grade geometry unit are nearly finished. When I have them done I’ll post for feedback. It will be interesting to see if teacher’s interpretation of level 2, 3, and 4 problems are different!

  6. Hi Mary,
    I think we’re in the same boat. I read Marzano and some other sources. Plan on doing assessments in a similar fashion. It’s really helping me to develop a rubric for students to demonstrate where they fit on the 4 point or 100 point scale. And I think it’s easier to defend then 4-good, 3-not bad, 2-needs improvement, etc. See blog post here:
    I think it might be worth looking into decaying averages, which I completely stole from Marzano is really into some kind of complex algorithm to try and get the “true score”, but I’d hate to have to explain that to parents. A decaying average might be easier for parents and students to understand.
    Good luck!

    1. Nathan, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I’ve heard of activgrade but have not yet had a chance to check it out. I second your statement about using rubrics. Spending time on the rubrics at the start allows students to see what meets the target and what exceeds the target. I’ve been working feverishly to create them. When creating the rubric Marzano suggests beginning with sample problems that meet the standard (a 3) and that will help identify what level 3 and 4 problems look like. Makes sense to me.

  7. I was using a 4-3-2-1 a number of years back (can’t recall the exact one now!), and then we went to the online reporting system for attendance, report card generation, etc. And along with that came the points/percentage/spreadsheet tallying and so on.

    The simplest “conversion”, or perhaps more properly correlation, we have tried was this– for a 4-3-2-1 scale, go to 8-7-6-5 for entry into the system. 100%-87.5%-75%-62.5%, which most scales go to A-B-C-D. I fully agree with the posters who noted that one goal is to break away from the “grade” to have students and parents think about scores and measures, and that in time should float to the surface or awareness. If you give the 0.5 scores– and aren’t we all at least tempted, even if we don’t want to use them?– they’ll just slot in. Saves the “look up” time.

    I have also tried a 9-8-7-6 (100-89-78-67) which boosts into higher B-C-D equivalents. Not sure that 10-9-8-7 works so well, unless a 1 or 7 would always represent at least minimum competencies. Did use 10-9-8-7-6 for a 5 point scale, and occasionally 12-11-10-9-8-7 for a quite complex task (not a standard, in that case).

    Using the 0% weighting for formative scores also seems to me to make a good deal of sense, in that although they will see scores, no “overall grade” will be calculated. Best thing in general is that the “points of focus” for “how can I improve” show up as distinct details in the profile of scores.

    1. Gordon,

      Your comment…”Best thing in general is that the “points of focus” for “how can I improve” show up as distinct details in the profile of scores.” is spot on, yet our grade report system doesn’t have the ability to do that.

      This is another reason for me to do two things, 1) provide a rubric for each standard which articulates the elements of the 1-4 scale and 2) have students’ set goals and monitor their own progress.

      This year will likely be an incredible amount of work, but incredibly worthwhile.

  8. As a background, I’ve been playing around with standards-based grading for 6 or 7 years and i started asking the questions (the questions about if we are supposed to be standards-based with our instruction, then why aren’t we having the conversation about standards based assessment and reporting). My school’s improvement models were largely influenced by Marzano and Reeves. I’ve moved on to other school since then. I feel like the progress gained in this area is dragging so badly. It’s all got to do with politics and misguided adherence to tradition.

    I’ve tried going the route that you have done, more or less, translating things to a 4 point scale. I always struggles with the question of 1/2 points. Meaning, you can’t really be a 3.5 score. Actually, it is more than that.

    I like what you’re doing and it may work in the mean time. But you’re going to realize that you have not made the change you really need. You see, it takes a culture shift and while it is admirable that you and one other teacher have made the commitment you’re going to find that being one small island in a sea of status quo will get you know where. You need to change the direction of the current, however hard that may be. You can’t make your grading model based on an equivelant of the traditional % based model. The percentage is the real problem, not the letter grade. As long as you’re still dealing with the percentages, your 4 is no better than an A+ and your 3 is no better than b or B+ or whatever.

    What the hell does an A represent? Or a B+ for that matter. We need to define those more clearly. You don’t need to get away from the A,B,C model. You need to change what A,B,C represent and it needs to be based on levels of mastery. Students earning A+ have demonstrated clear evaluative and synthesis abilities as they relate to this standards. Students earning a B have demonstrated abilities of analysis and application, and the C,D, F (if need be) are based on levels of demonstrated knowledge and comprehension. This is all off the cuff, of course, and there’s room for discussion. God knows those of us interested in this want the discussion! But levels of grading, to me, should be based off of the students ability to demonstrate mastery as it relates to the various levels of blooms. Teachers, knowing that the only way the kids can earn an A is for them to demonstrate evaluative and synthesis abilities would need to offer more appropriate hands-on, problem-based project type of instructional methods…..or they truly wouldn’t be doing there jobs.

    As the current percentage-based model presently dictates, too much learning is geared toward the memorization and regurgitation of knowledge. But we should be beyond that. Those who just want an A really struggle to accept that. Those who actually want to learn love that. All those other hands on the steering wheel in education (politics, parents, policy, and public funding, etc) really stand in the way of making the changes.

    This is way too long and i apologize.

    1. Mike,

      “But levels of grading, to me, should be based off of the students ability to demonstrate mastery as it relates to the various levels of Bloom’s.” I agree, and I also agree I am not there yet. My district is in the midst of math curriculum writing and we need to shift the focus in terms of what we want the students to know and be able to do.

      Call me Pollyanna, but I am hopeful. As they say, “For things to change, you have to change.” If no one makes a move there is no movement. It may take my district ten years to bring most of the faculty on board, but as the rogue in my building I am beginning to hear conversations that have never taken place before.

      Regarding the overall concept of SBG, last night was parent-teacher conferences and I asked each parent their comfort level. It was all over the map, but every one of them was interested in their child growing as a learner. Sure there was talk of the grade, but I was left with a positive “feeling”, no data mind you, that my small community of parents are shifting their focus from the grade to the learning.

      In time I do think the change you and I want will take place on a grander scale.

      No need to apologize; every word you stated counted.

  9. I’m just learning about standards based grading. So how are formative assessments and summative assessments graded? Is there a number of points given per question based on correct answer? Need help with this! 😦

    1. Hi Jalisha,
      Here’s how I do SBG:
      I determine a student’s level of proficiency by the types of problems they get correct. Level 2 problems are the simpler ones, Level 3 type problems meet the standard and level 4 problems go beyond the standard. The level 4’s are attainable, they are just beyond the standard and may even be beyond what is taught in class. With SBG one doesn’t issue points per question. It’s about examining each question and determining if the student can complete that level of problem. When grading I look at each problem to determine if the student has complete understanding, made a careless error, or showed no understanding. I write next to each problem:
      “C” for correct,
      “HPC” for High partial credit,
      “PC” for partial credit, or
      “NY” for not yet.

      That information helps me to determinate if they are understanding those problems. I then look at the entire assessment to determine where I think they are. At that point I refer to a scale to enter a score. Since I weight my grades and the category for summative is 90% I make each assessment worth 10 points. So if a student shows a level of proficiency of 3.5 I’ll enter 9.5 points which is 95%.

      Bob Marzano is the SBG guru. I highly recommend you purchasing his book. There are different ways to assess and enter percentage grades. This is what I do.

      I hope I helped!

  10. Our school system implemented the Marzano grading scale for 3 years and deemed it a complete failure. They went back to percentage grades recently.

    The problem was that it was set up so that if a student missed just one problem in the 1st section, then that student made a 1.8 and failed, not matter how many problems were done correctly. Grades were given based on the first problem missed, not on overall number of problems that were correct. The papers were divided into sections, with each section representing a 1, 2, or 3 on the Marzano scale. The first problem missed determined the grade. So a student that answered 9 out of 10 questions correctly, but made a careless mistake in the first section, would fail the test. If another student answered 9 out of 10 questions correctly, but missed the question at the end of the test, then that student would pass. In the earlier grades, they would give a 4.0 bonus question. If the student could answer the 4.0 question, but missed a question in the 1st section, then the student still failed and was deemed not to have learned that standard.

    It was a system that punished students with learning disabilities who tended to make more ‘careless’ mistakes overall, even though they learned the material and would have met the standards in a regular percentage grading system.

    My middle child, who thankfully graduated before they implemented this system, was in the gifted program and later graduated college with good grades. But she would have flunked elementary school under this system because she is dyslexic. My youngest child, who did have this grading system for 3 years, is also gifted, but we were constantly making sure that she went over each test twice, as she tended to skim over ‘easy’ questions (such as those in the 1st section) and make careless mistakes. Under the old grading system, this would not have penalized her very much. Under the Marzano system, it might mean failing the test, depending on where she made the careless mistake.

    The school system also implemented a policy that students could retake tests, depending on their Marzano score. But there was a cut off. So students who made a 1.8 could retake the test, but students who were deemed to have met the standard were not allowed to retake the test to make a better grade. Parents thought this system was unfair, as good students were punished for making careless mistakes on tests and were not allowed the opportunity to get a better grade–while the student who did not pass the 1st test had the opportunity to get a perfect score on the repeat test (and thus have a better over-all class grade).

    Also, since the school system defined what Marzano score equals honor roll and merit list, then they found that the parents automatically translated the Marzano scores into their percentage equivalents. The good students then were tutored on test-taking, versus being tutored in the actual subject matter, as how the student took the test (not making a careless error on the easier material that came in the first 2 sections of the test) became more important than learning the more difficult material. The primary emphasis was on eradicating careless errors early in the test, with the secondary emphasis on mastering the more difficult material.

    Because of all of these problems, our school system dropped standards based grading after 3 years. Interestingly, the school system had previously tried standards based grading a few decades before with the same result.

    1. Fault may lie with your school district rather than Marzano. In his book, Formative Assessment and Standards Based Grading,
      Marzano would recognize a careless error as high partial credit. If a student is making a lot of careless errors but demonstrates a solid understanding of the concepts, he would earn a 3.5. I think it’s egregious that a school system would unilaterally not allow a student to demonstrate a better understanding of the topic. In effect that is saying, “I don’t want you to learn.” I don’t thank Marzano would go for that either.

      I do think you have a point about standards and special education students. If a student is not able to learn grade level material, they should not be deemed a failure.

      Thanks for commenting.

  11. I have been working on a grading system (web based) that supports Standard Based Grading and Reporting using the percentile scale used by Marzano. It also measures only academic performance. Missed work doesn’t factor into the grade at all and final grades are assigned by the teacher, although the students academic grade is visible to both students and parents. Using the Power-Law formula I feel prevents the penalization for missed and occasional low grades as its factored into the grade via the growth model. The system has been in use in a NYC high school (just one teacher) for over a year with fantastic results and feedback from parents and students alike. The assessments are graded directly to the CCLS so a single assessment can address multiple standards (any standard failed to be addressed in an assignment due to absence is able to have partial credit if the other standards are complete). Data production can be done per student re progress and growth/areas of struggle. A percentile is converted for the purpose of individual assignments although these have no direct reflection on the grade as it is just an independent averaged percentile for that standard, whereas the grade is based on the power law average of each standard addressed. (each standard is powerlawed individually).
    I think that many school districts lack an effective system to implement Standard Based Grading especially with the CCLS.
    General feedback has been that students find Standard Based more informative and helps them identify specific areas in which they are struggling.

  12. Not sure if you are still checking this, I hope you are… I am attempting to gradually switch to standard based grading, and am running into a question I cant quite answer for myself. My grade level team creates our assessments together, and they are normally out of 10 pts. I am not going to be using percentages in my gradebook at all. I am actually striving to have everything out of the 1-4 scale, so I am unsure how to convert these scores to the 1-4 scale (for my gradebook), I am thinking of just doing the reverse of the more common issue of converting standard scale to percentage. What are your thoughts?

    So… 10/10 = 100% = 4
    9/10 = 90% = 4
    8/10 = 80% = 3
    7/10 = 70% = 3
    6/10 = 60% = 2
    5/10 = 50%…..

    1. Converting SBG into percentages is a common dilemma and it is still something our math department grapples with. If we have a common understanding of a level 3 (proficient with no major errors) I would have reservations about assigning 70% to a student who was proficient. In my mind, a student who earns a 70% has not yet met an acceptable level of performance. Making 7/10 = 2 might be something to consider. I appreciate you taking the time to write. Will you be allowing for retakes, given some plan of action on the student’s part?

      1. Thanks for getting back to me, yes, I find percentages difficult; as we are really trying to please the traditional way of grading and move into SBG at the same time… its tough. I found a gradebook, Grade Blender on TPT that is awesome, I highly recommend if you are still working it the kinks in percentages and standard based.

      2. I did view the tutorial on the gradebook you mentioned. The student management system our district uses (eSchool) has a similar feature. However since only our math department does SBG, the district wants to wait on enabling that feature until SBG is more universally adopted. As the video points out, the teacher still needs to determine the cut scores for converting between percentages and SBG. That section of the video would make for a great discussion at one of our PLCs. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    2. I will forewarn you that I have never used this in my classroom. I just came up with this as a way of converting the 4.0 scale to percentages. Take a look.

      A = 4.0 (100%)
      A = 3.5 (94%)

      Above Average
      B = 3.0 (88%)
      B = 2.5 (82%)

      C = 2.0 (76%)
      C = 1.5 (70%)

      Below Satisfactory
      D = 1.0 (64%)
      F = 0.5 (58%)

      No Mastery Shown
      F = 0 (52%)

      This way, the lowest grade on an assessment is a 52. I like the proportional nature of each half-point being 6% points. I didn’t like other scales that were proposed on here that had inconsistent percentages between point scales.

      1. Sorry it has taken me so long to reply, Rich. We’ve grappled with something similar to your suggestion and we always come back to trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Also the categories you’ve identified do not necessarily meet SBG criteria. I know you’re using them as an illustration but a satisfactory equivalent of 1.5 or 2.0 in SBG parlance is considered approaching, which definitely has a different meaning than satisfactory. I understand where you’re coming from with the proportional nature you propose, I just wish we could adopt SBG without the monkey business.

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