Report Cards

What Is Standards-based Grading?    How it differs    How Progress is Measured    Understanding the Grading 

What Is Standards-based Grading?

Standards-based grading is a method for teachers to measure how students are doing in meeting the learning goals for their grade as determined by Connecticut State Standards. Learning goals, sometimes called learning standards, are the academic skills your child should know or be able to do for his grade level by the end of the school year.

Standards-based report cards give a grade for each learning goal, so students receive multiple grades in each subject area. In 5th grade math, for example, you’ll see the subject broken into several categories, such as operations/algebraic thinking and fractions. Under each category, you’ll see a list of math skills your child should be able to do, as well as a grade showing how your child is doing.

Work habits or personal/social—are graded separately to provide an accurate picture of your child’s academic achievement. Behavior includes aspects like completing tasks on time, going to class prepared, and contributing positively to class discussions.

How Standards-based Grades Differ from Traditional Letter Grades

Providing grades for academic proficiency and work habits gives parents more information about the areas in which their child needs to improve than the traditional letter grading system. The traditional grading system combines many elements—test scores, quizzes, completed homework, classroom participation, coming to school on time, extra credit—and averages the semester’s work into a percentage that correlates with a letter grade.

One student might bring home a B because she did all the work, turned in all her homework, and participated in class but didn’t quite understand the concepts. Another student might bring home a B because he aced all the tests and quizzes but didn’t do any of the homework and didn’t participate in class. Each student earns the same grade but for very different reasons, and the grade doesn’t tell parents very much about what the student knows.

Because standards-based report cards separate the two, you can see if your child needs help with an academic concept or can’t remember to turn in homework. Both should be addressed. An overarching goal in education these days is to develop students who not only master academic content but also demonstrate attributes for successful learning beyond school.

How Progress is Measured

4 Excels at Norwich’s grade level expectations, produces exemplary work

Strong performance at Norwich’s grade level expectations, produces quality work

  • Demonstrates solid and consistent understanding of skills
  • Applies knowledge and skills that lead to above average work based on grade level expectations
  • Requires minimal support to complete work

Satisfactory performance at Norwich’s grade level expectations, produces adequate work

  • Demonstrates partial or inconsistent understanding of skills
  • Requires additional reinforcement and practice of skills to produce work that is average based on grade level expectations
  • Requires regular support to complete work

Does not meet Norwich’s grade level expectations. Requires teacher direction, support, and assistance to learn and use skills, concepts, or strategies

  • Demonstrates minimal understanding of skills
  • Requires additional instruction and practice of skills, work produced does not meet grade level expectations
  • Requires additional time and significant support to complete work

N/A Not assessed at this time

Not covered in instruction, or inadequate evidence of student achievement available to make a determination

IE Insufficient Evidence
Insufficient Evidence (IE) indicates that not enough data has been gathered to accurately give a score to a student on an individual standard. A teacher does not need to wait until the end of a grading period to enter IE. Entering an IE earlier in the grading period may help better communicate missing work/assessments to both parents/guardians and students.

It’s more useful to know that your child has met a standard than that she has a B with 84 percent. Each grade on the report card represents a skill or knowledge standard your child has had the opportunity to learn, so it’s a meaningful snapshot of academic achievement.


Understanding the Grading

How Do You Know How Your Child Is Doing?

If you’re confused by what the levels mean, you’re not alone. Keep in mind that a 3 or “goal” isn’t the same as a B. It means your child has met state standards, and that’s good.

Also, even top students can earn a 2 or “proficient” grade, which can be a shock for some families. But it’s more important to know if your child is struggling with a concept than to see a slew of top grades because of stellar work habits. On the upside, early low scores aren’t averaged into the final grade—so once your child masters the concept, her final grade shows that. Please make sure to continue communicating with your child’s teachers before any problems go too far. The report card should never come as a surprise.

Level 4, or the top level, may be the trickiest to understand. If your child earned A’s on traditional report cards, she may have received them for meeting the teacher’s requirements, not necessarily for excelling at or going beyond grade level according to state standard. In the new system, 4’s may be harder to come by (and 3’s should be celebrated).

As the grading system becomes familiar, you’ll get more comfortable. The important thing is that your child is learning and making progress. Celebrate learning, and the grades will follow.

Adapted from: Standards-Based Grading: What Parents Need To Know by Joanna Nesbit