Teacher Perceptions on Standards-Based Grading: How Standards-Based Grading Can Bring Equity to All
Background: The traditional grading system and practices have remained largely unchanged since the late 1800s, yet school districts have continued to implement these traditional numerical grading practices. Standards-based grading is an alternative non-traditional way of grading that has begun to make its way into some schools. Standards-based grading practices and systems focus on student mastery around a specific concept or skill, and also focuses on students’ product, process, and performance. It is essential that we explore different types of grading as our world continues to adapt and change. Purpose: This qualitative case-study learned about elementary school teachers’ perceptions of standards-based grading and how it considers equity for all students. The research question that guided this case-study was: What are elementary school teachers’ perceptions on standards-based grading and how does it consider equity for all students? Method: This qualitative case study consisted of data gathered from six elementary school teachers from a large suburban public school district in the southwest region of the United States outside of a major city in Texas who have used or are using standards-based grading in their instruction. The data sets were collected through semi-structured interviews and one focus group session. Questions were structured around the perceptions of equitable grading and the use of standards-based grading. In addition, the researcher kept a field journal for triangulation purposes. All sessions were recorded and transcribed using Microsoft Teams. Data collected through the interviews and focus groups were analyzed, coded, and triangulated for emerging themes. Results: There were three cycles of coding. The first cycle of coding was through hand coding of repeated phrases and words from these sessions that yielded eight emerging initial codes and 10 sub-codes. The second cycle of coding included 12 specific codes such as consistency, differentiation, multiple opportunities, feedback, and clarity. The third cycle of coding used in vivo coding triangulated with the first two cycles of coding and aligned to the Equity Framework from Feldman (2019). These results indicated that equitableness within standards-based grading is framed around clarity, tools, specific feedback, opportunities, the learning environment, and conversations. Participants shared their experiences in implementing standards-based grading on their campuses. Team planning around specific opportunities and student tools helped to bring clarity to the standards. Intentional feedback and multiple opportunities for mastery allowed for equitableness. Conclusion: School districts and administrations should consider the alignment and messaging around grading and reporting from district-level administrators to campus administrators, to classroom teachers and support staff. School districts and administration should also consider professional development opportunities to ensure calibration and understanding among campus leadership, campus level teams and campuses district-wide to have a broader impact on student learning and achievement.