Standards based grading should not be standardized

FCCPS+teachers+spend+time+in+the+library+over+the+summer+working+together+on+how+to+implement+standards-based+grading.+Photo+via+fccps.org.
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Standards based grading should not be standardized

FCCPS teachers spend time in the library over the summer working together on how to implement standards-based grading. Photo via fccps.org.

FCCPS teachers spend time in the library over the summer working together on how to implement standards-based grading. Photo via fccps.org.

FCCPS teachers spend time in the library over the summer working together on how to implement standards-based grading. Photo via fccps.org.

FCCPS teachers spend time in the library over the summer working together on how to implement standards-based grading. Photo via fccps.org.

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A big change is coming to Mason this year, and to the thing that students care about the most: grades. 

Standards-based grading (SBG), which began to be implemented last year in ninth grade English classes, is a system that is very similar to the IB or MYP grading scales – scores of 1-7 will be given out instead of the traditional 0-100. 

Summative assessments will be given the most importance, with homework and classwork given little to no value. With this system, the focus is on student growth as opposed to student engagement.

Although Mason is planning to totally implement Standards-based grading in the near future, to us, this system is the opposite of productive. Standards-based grading gets an F. Or more like a one.

The system is too soft. Students need some sort of motivation to complete work, but under SBG, there are no constant grades to encourage students. Consequences, which SBG lacks, are necessary for success. 

In an already anxiety-filled environment, tests will be given even more importance. Opposed to tests being weighted 30% or 40%, the summative assessments will be worth 70% or 80%.

Students also lose control over their grades with SBG. With one assignment determining a majority of their grade, grades become much more teacher-focused instead of what they should and need to be – student-focused. 

With the news that Mason will soon be switching to standards-based grading, many students are voicing their opinions, with most of them still questioning it.

“I think the idea is good, but there’s a lot of room for biased grades from teachers,” senior Julia Rosenberger said.

“Kids that are naturally gifted at test-taking, they’re [benefiting from] it, while kids that aren’t, that need to work for it, don’t get as many benefits,” sophomore Jackson Pierce said.

“I think it’s a good idea, it just depends on how it’s executed. It’s hard to do it in certain classes. Like in math – quizzes should be a big part of your grade because it’s an application thing,” senior Alex Dunie said.

The goals of SBG are noble, but the implementation is flawed. To introduce a totally different system this late in the game – to students with only three or four years left of K-12 – will not be effective, and students are much less likely to accept it. 

Standards-based grading will change the fundamentals of the culture at Mason – one obsessed with the high stakes and pressure of competition. 

Instead of introducing a radically different system to high schoolers already locked-in to a certain way of learning, FCCPS should consider starting this at an earlier stage. Mason should not be given this out of the gate – students should grow up with a specific style of studying and time management. 

Under SBG, Mason is just giving their students even more room for failure.