Standards-Referenced Grading

Education plays a big role in helping every student answer the question: what do you want to be when you grow up?
But how can our schools and teachers do a better job of making sure students gain the skills and abilities to realize their goals and dreams? One way is to improve how we monitor and report the progress students make in the classroom. A lot has changed in education over the past century. But one thing, unfortunately, has not: the As, Bs, Cs, Ds or Fs used on report cards. Des Moines Public Schools is making the switch to a new and improved grading system – called Standards- Referenced Grading – to help students, teachers and parents know whether work in the classroom is heading in the right direction and pointing toward the goals and dreams of our students.

What is Standards-Referenced Grading (SRG)?
In education, the term standards-referenced refers to instructional approaches that are aligned to learning standards — i.e., written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. In other words, standards-referenced refers to the use of learning standards to guide what gets taught and assessed in schools.

What are the advantages of SRG?
Improved communication and additional feedback for parents, students and teachers – parents and students will see areas of academic strength and weaknesses in the grade book rather than seeing a test score or homework assignment and wondering what the next steps might be. Teachers will know which standards they need to re-teach. Students will know which standards for which they need additional learning opportunities and/or practice

What are the DMPS Guiding Practices?
A 25-person task force, comprised of teachers, curriculum coordinators, administrators, and specialists researched SRG practices in place across the country and developed 6 guiding practices to be implemented district-wide to serve as a common framework:
1. A consistent 4-point interval grading scale will be used.
2. Letter grades, derived from the 4-point scale, will be based solely on achievement of course/grade level standards. Student participation, work completion, and ability to work with others will be reported separately using the ‘DMPS Citizenship and Employability Skills Rubric.’
3. Scores will be based on a body of evidence.
4. Achievement will be organized by standard/learning topic and reported as a scale score. Cross topic scale scores will be converted to a letter grade for the course.
5. Students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency.
6. Accommodations and modifications will be provided to students with special needs.

Please visit the DMPS grading website for more SRG information.
How do scores translate to a grade?
Teachers collect a body of evidence for each learning topic. At semester, teachers
will examine the evidence and determine a final topic score for each topic.
Final topic scores are then averaged and converted to a grade using the following conversion scale: