Standard Based Grading Coming to Linn-Mar

Skylar Beck, Contributing Reporter

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Linn-Mar will be converting to a standards referencing system over the next two years meaning that standards will be used by teachers to assess student work. These standards will then be converted into points which will ultimately determine students’ letter grade.

Why the change in assessment style? According to Principal Jeff Gustason, standards based grading helps students to better understand what they are expected to learn,

“The biggest thing is, are kids learning?’ said Gustason. He says he wants students to know where they are at. In traditional based grading, students often do not know where their grade came from or why they missed points.

Standards based grading shows students what they know and understand by using levels. The levels are ranged one to four. Level one is the low understanding point and level four extends beyond just understanding the material. This helps the teachers also understand where each student is and what they struggle with.

Amanda Kloser, an English teacher at Linn-Mar, suggests that the grading is a challenge for teachers and students. She says teachers need to work to make the grading transparent. Each student should know how and be able to achieve a level four in each class. Many students would agree but say that currently, many teachers don’t understand the system and only award a 3 if someone is proficient.

In a class survey regarding standard based grading, over half of the class disliked the grading system. Dennis Sealy, senior said, “Uh, it’s dumb” and Ruthie Gustason, junior, said it was not a grading system that is favorable for the normal A+ students but that it does help the struggling students.

Cassidy Lukan, a senior at Linn-Mar, discussed her experience with standard based grading. In her science class, Lukan says they would take quizzes where there were sections for each level, 1-4. The problem, says Lukan, is that if she got the level 1 section wrong but the level 4 section correct, she would only get a level one on the whole quiz which she sees as unfair. Lukan says that many times she felt like her hard work was not paying off.

Other students, however, like the system. Kristina Schuring, senior, says she likes standards based grading. She likes that she can know which level she is at and know what to study for the future.

“I’m okay with standards continuing as long as all teachers understand it,” said Schuring.

Dakota Katcher, senior, said that the method works for some teachers and when it works, it’s helpful. In fact, a majority of the students interviewed said the method would work if all teachers understood it.

The main issue seems to be the lack of understanding of what standards based grading is and how to use it correctly. This is also why most students dislike it. Teachers need to understand that the program needs to be the same for each class and that teachers must explain to the students how to reach a level 4.

The program is in its infancy stage right now and there is still a lot of controversy surrounding its implementation. However, like it or not, it is happening.