A new way of assessing and reporting student achievement has been implemented at Indian Community School. Our new standards-based system of grading and reporting has been developed to ensure that each student’s grades accurately reflect his/her level of proficiency toward grade level standards. Our standards based instructional program clearly addresses the following:
- What should students learn?
- How will students learn it?
- How will students demonstrate what they’ve learned?
The use of consistent ICS Learning Targets, based on grade level standards for each subject area, will provide a focus on learning and clear information about students’ progress. This will help each student understand what level of proficiency is needed in order to earn a grade in each subject and grade level.
What is a Standards-Based Instructional Program?
A standards-based instructional program guides instruction so that lessons and assessments focus on student learning. Additionally, it provides a common language to have conversations and collaboration with families and helps ensure equal educational opportunities for all students. Learning comes first in a standards based system. It is an ongoing teaching and learning cycle that ensures all students can demonstrate proficiency in grade level standards. A standards based instructional program serves the following purposes:
- To provide clear learning objectives for lessons, units, and assessments.
- To support student learning by helping students understand the relationship between their current performance and the desired, next level of performance.
- To support student effort by helping students understand the relationship between the effectiveness of their effort and their growth over time.
- To develop each student’s ability to think critically about his or her own work.
- To encourage students to take risks in learning that result in the development of new skills and deeper understanding.
- To inform teachers about student progress toward learning targets so teachers can provide responsive instruction.
Academic Standards – Academic standards provide transparent and comprehensive guidelines for successful learning beyond the classroom. In Wisconsin, all state standards serve as a model. School Boards adopt academic standards in each subject area to best serve their local community. Indian Community School aligns curriculum, learning, and assessments to the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Wisconsin Model Academic Standards as our roadmap for instructional practices. Along with the Our Ways Teaching and Learning Framework, we use these standards as the foundation for teaching and learning which allows teachers to identify and communicate essential understandings and learning targets. Alignment to standards ensures rigorous curriculum, promotes college and career readiness, and encourages the application of knowledge so that students can increase their understanding of the world.
ICS Learning Targets – Our Learning Targets have been developed from grade-level academic standards, deconstructed into short-term goals of learning. They are statements that clearly communicate to students, families, and educators what students are expected to know and do at the end of a lesson and/or unit of study. These explicit goals for daily instruction highlight essential skills, concepts and knowledge to provide a clear focus for the development of lessons and assessments. Learning Targets are written in student-friendly language, allowing students and teachers to create specific goals for learning that are personalized to each student’s individual needs.
ICS Course Overviews – The development of Course Overviews provide the foundation of an equitable, consistent, school-wide, standards based instructional program. The Course Overviews are documents for each course at every grade level that provide clear, measurable learning outcomes based on Board-approved standards. Additionally, the Course Overviews provide the main source of communication to students and families outlining what a child should know and be able to do at each grade level.
Why is ICS changing to a standards-based system of grading and reporting?
Educational research suggests that establishing clear and measurable academic standards for student learning increases student achievement. Grades are the ultimate form of feedback to students about their progress toward mastery of the standards. Grades need to be accurate and meaningful. Students and parents need a precise picture of what learning has been mastered and what learning still needs to occur. At Indian Community School, a standards based system will allow us to more accurately and consistently communicate student achievement to students and families as it relates to state standards and ICS Learning Targets based on best instructional practices.
What is standards-based grading?
Grades must be meaningful, consistent, accurate, and supportive of learning. Students learn best through a system of clear learning targets, quality formative assessment, developmental feedback, and the opportunity to respond to that feedback in order to guide their effort toward higher levels of understanding. The purpose of grades is to provide a basis of information and feedback to accurately communicate individual student achievement as related to the learning targets. Standards based grading provides accurate information to students and families on a student’s individual progress and mastery toward meeting grade level standards.
A standards-based grading system includes the following guidelines:
- Grades should be based only on academic standards.
- Grades will be based on performance on summative assessments.
- Grades are based on quality assessments and properly recorded evidence of learning.
- Extra credit will not be given at any time.
- Students will be allowed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of learning targets in various ways.
- Teachers will determine grade book entries by considering multiple points of data emphasizing the most recent evidence to support their determination.
- Students will be provided multiple opportunities to practice learning targets independently through homework or other class work. Practice assignments and activities will be consistent with classroom standards for the purpose of providing feedback. Practice assignments, including homework, will not be included as part of the final grade.
- Retakes and revisions will be allowed after completing the assigned opportunities for practice.
How is traditional grading and standards-based grading different?
Traditional grading is subjective. On a traditional report card, an overall grade is given in each subject. That grade is a combination of homework, tests, work habits, as well as a student’s understanding of subject content. However, the focus tends to be more on assignment completion and missing work instead of understanding. When a student receives a letter grade on his/her report card, it does not tell the parent, teacher, or student what the student specifically knows and is able to do.
A standards-based grading system provides clear and consistent grade-level learning targets for each subject area, focus for the learning activities that students experience, and a method for communicating specific information on how students are making progress toward the standards. By using standards based learning and assessment, we better focus on three components of strong teaching: learning targets, assessment and feedback. Learning targets provide clear statements of what standards will be covered and the expectation for each skill. Assessment focuses on how well students have learned the skills from the learning targets. Teachers can then be precise with the feedback provided to students because the learning targets are clear. Thus, teachers are better able to provide student feedback regarding growth achieved and areas where more growth is needed. ICS is moving to standards-based learning and assessment, using a new standards-based report card, because it focuses more clearly on student learning and evidence, and how to provide important feedback to students to help them reach their goals.
What is a standards-based report card?
The purpose of a report card is to accurately communicate a student’s ongoing achievement and performance toward the mastery of grade level standards. A standards-based report card provides detailed information on how well a student is progressing toward mastery of end-of-year standards for their grade level, identifying specific areas of strength as well as areas in need of improvement. Standards-based reporting examines each subject area through specific learning targets rather than students receiving one grade that represents multiple criteria, including an average of multiple grades, student behaviors, and work habits. Providing more detailed information allows parents and students to understand more clearly what learning is expected at each grade level. With this understanding, parents will be better able to guide and support their child’s learning in specific ways.
How are grades determined?
A standards-based grading system should be reliable and ensure each student’s grades accurately reflect their level of proficiency toward grade level standards and learning targets. This system will develop clear, consistent success criteria for learning targets, help each student understand in each course or program what level of proficiency is needed to earn each grade, and provide frequent opportunities for each student to obtain feedback as to their progress toward the learning goals of their courses