Standards Based Learning (also known as Standards Based Grading, Standards Referenced Grading, Proficiency Based Learning, etc) is a philosophy where the teacher begins instruction with a predetermined standard. Students are expected to learn and student progress is then assessed and reported in relation to their progress toward that specific standard.

According to educational researcher Thomas Guskey, standards-based grading “facilitates teaching and learning better than almost any other grading method” (Educational Leadership, 2001) and is the only model of assessment proven to improve student learning. Practitioners of Standards Based Learning report more motivated and assessment capable learners and greater retention of skills and content knowledge. Additionally, standards based grading practices can yield more accurate descriptions of student performance and generate meaningful data for use in determining appropriate intervention and enrichment strategies for students.

Our school improvement consultants are prepared to help you:

  • Reflect on your current grading practices and the impact they may be having on student learning
  • Understand the many flaws of traditional grading practices
  • Ensure accuracy in your assessments
  • Distinguish between the different forms of standards based learning including “standards referenced grading” and “standards based grading”
  • Separate student behavior from academic learning in reporting progress
  • Determine which standards are essential for students to be proficient in
  • Create the necessary tools including rubrics, formative and summative assessments
  • Develop and implement standards based learning models that can be utilized as classroom “pilot” programs all the way through building or district level implementation
  • Educate your community about the need for changes in grading practices, how it helps their students and what they can expect throughout the process


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Mark Clements

Improvement Consultant - Professional Learning Communities