Standards-Based Grading in a Small, Suburban District

Teacher Education, Confidence, and Implementation




standards-based grading, perceptions, confidence, K-12 teachers, survey


Standards-based grading (SBG) is a grading system in which each student is given a set of grades, each reflecting their proficiency in relation to a specific skill. The present study examined K–12 teachers’ implementation of SBG practices in a small, suburban Midwestern school district, as well as their perceptions of and confidence in implementing SBG. It also examined these teachers’ prior formal and informal opportunities to learn about SBG and how both pre-service and in-service opportunities to learn relate to their implementation of SBG. Results provide evidence of mixed levels of teacher SBG implementation, mixed teacher perceptions of SBG, and mixed teacher confidence in implementing such practices. In addition, the study finds that teachers’ prior opportunities to learn about SBG practices formally and informally were variable. Participation in both pre-service and in-service opportunities to learn about SBG were moreover related to SBG implementation, and these relationships were partially or fully mediated by teachers’ confidence in implementing SBG practices.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Olha Ketsman, Northern Illinois

OLHA KETSMAN, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment at Northern Illinois University. Her major research interests lie in the area of pre-service and in-service teacher education and technology integration. Email:

Todd Reeves, Northern Illinois University

TODD REEVES, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment at Northern Illinois University. His research program addresses problems related to educational assessment; teacher education and development; and online learning; as well as problems that exist at the points of intersection among these domains. He is also Director of the Research on the Impact of Teacher Education (RITE) lab in NIU’s College of Education. Email:



Ainsworth, L. (2013). Prioritizing the Common Core: Identifying the specific standards to emphasize the most. Englewood, CO: Lead + Learn Press.

Anderson, L. W. (2018). A critique of grading: Policies, practices, and technical matters. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 26(49), 1-31. DOI:

Beatty, I. D. (2013). Standards-based grading in introductory university physics. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(2), 1-22.

Brookhart, S. M. (2011). Starting the conversation about grading. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 10-14.

Brookhart, S. M. (2015). Graded achievement, tested achievement, and validity. Educational Assessment, 20(4), 268-296. DOI:

Brookhart, S. M., Guskey, T. R., Bowers, A. J., McMillan, J. H., Smith, J. K., Smith, L. F., Stevens, M. T., & Welsh, M. E. (2016). A century of grading research: Meaning and value in the most common educational measure. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 803-848. DOI:

Buckmiller, T., Peters, R., & Kruse, J. (2017). Questioning points and percentages: Standards-based grading (SBG) in higher education. College Teaching, 65(4), 151-157. DOI:

Carberry, A. R., Siniawski, M. T., & Dionisio, J. D. N. (2012). Standards-based grading: Preliminary studies to quantify changes in affective and cognitive student behaviors. Frontiers in Education Conference Proceedings. DOI:

Diegelman-Parente, A. (2011). The use of mastery learning with competency-based grading in an organic chemistry course. Journal of College Science Teaching, 40(5), 50-58.

Elsinger, J., & Lewis, D. (2020). Applying a standards-based grading framework across lower level mathematics courses. PRIMUS, 30(8-10), 885-907. DOI:

Feldman, J. (2019). Beyond standards-based grading: Why equity must be part of grading reform. Phi Delta Kappan, 100(8), 52-55. DOI:

Franklin, A., Buckmiller, T., & Kruse, J. (2016). Vocal and vehement: Understanding parents' aversion to standards-based grading. International Journal of Social Science Studies, 4(11), 19-29. DOI:

Guskey, T. R., & Bailey, J. (2001). Developing grading and reporting systems for student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Guskey, T. R., & Jung, L. A. (2009). Grading and reporting in a standards-based environment: Implications for students with special needs. Theory Into Practice, 48(1), 53-62. DOI:

Guskey, T. R., Swan, G. M., & Jung, L. A. (2011). Grades that mean something: Kentucky develops standards-based report cards. Phi Delta Kappan, 93(2), 52-57. DOI:

Guskey, T. R., & Bailey, J.M. (2010). Developing standards-based report cards. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Guskey, T. R., & Jung, L. A. (2006). The challenges of standards-based grading. Leadership Compass, 4(2), 6-10.

Hany, K., Proctor, M., Wollenweber, J., & Al-Bataineh, A. (2016). Teacher perception of standards-based grading: Implication and effectiveness. Journal of Teaching and Education, 5(1), 749-764.

Hooper, J., & Cowell, R. (2014). Standards-based grading: History adjusted true score. Educational Assessment, 19(1), 58-76. DOI:

Jung, L. A., & Guskey, T. R. (2007). Standards-based grading and reporting: a model for special education. Teaching Exceptional Children, 40(2), 48-53. DOI:

Lang, C. & Townsley, M. (2021). Improving teacher evaluation: Walking the talk of standards-based grading. Journal of School Administration Research and Development, 6 (2), 81-89. DOI:

Many, T. W, & Horrell, T. (2014). Prioritizing the standard using R.E.A.L. criteria. TESLA News, 71(1), 1-2.

Marzano, R. J., & Heflebower, T. (2011). Grades that show what students know. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 34-39.

McLaughlin, M. W., & Shepard, L. A. (1995). Improving education through standards-based reform: A report by the National Academy of Education Panel on Standards-Based Education Reform. Washington, DC: National Academy of Education

Michael, R. D., Webster, C., Patterson, D., Laguna, P., & Sherman, C. (2016). Standards-based assessment, grading, and professional development of California middle school physical education teachers. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 35(3), 277-283. DOI:

Muñoz, M. A., & Guskey, T. R. (2015). Standards-based grading and reporting will improve education. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(7), 64-68. DOI:

O’Connor, K., Jung, L. E., & Reeves, D. (2018). Gearing up for FAST grading and reporting. Phi Delta Kappan, 99(8), 67-71. DOI:

O’Connor, K., & Wormeli, R. (2011). Reporting student learning. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 40-44.

Pellegrino, J. W., Chudowsky, N., & Glaser, R. (Eds.). (2001). Knowing what students know: The science and design of educational assessment. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Peters, R., Kruse, J., Buckmiller, T., & Townsley, M. (2017). " It's just not fair!" Making sense of secondary students' resistance to a standards-based grading. American Secondary Education, 45(3), 9.

Peters, R., & Buckmiller, T. (2014). Our grades were broken: Overcoming barriers and challenges to implementing standards-based grading. Journal of Educational Leadership in Action, 2(2), 1-23.

Pollio, M., & Hochbein, C. (2015). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores in a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11), 1-28. DOI:

Scriffiny, P. L. (2008). Seven reasons for standards-based grading. Educational Leadership, 66(2), 70-74.

Spencer, K. (2012). Standards-based grading: New report cards aim to make mastery clear. Harvard Education Letter, 28(5), 4-10.

Swan, G. M., Guskey, T. R., & Jung, L. A. (2014). Parents’ and teachers’ perceptions of standards-based and traditional report cards. Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Accountability, 26(3), 289-299. DOI:

Tierney, R. D., Simon, M., & Charland, J. (2011). Being fair: Teachers’ interpretations of principles for standards-based grading. The Educational Forum, 75(3), 210-227. DOI:

Tomlinson, C., & McTighe, J. (2006). Integrating differentiated instruction and understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Townsley, M. (2019). Considering standards-based grading: Challenges for secondary school leaders. Journal of School Administration Research and Development, 4(1), 35-38. DOI:

Townsley, M., & McNamara, S. (2021). “I thought I was supposed to get an A in PE!” Successes and challenges of teachers and administrators implementing standards-based grading in physical education. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 70. DOI:

Townsley, M., & Varga, M. (2018). Getting high school students ready for college: A quantitative study of standards-based grading practices. Journal of Research in Education, 28(1), 92-112.

Welsh, M. E., D'Agostino, J. V., & Kaniskan, B. (2013). Grading as a reform effort: Do standards‐based grades converge with test scores? Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 32(2), 26-36. DOI:

Zimmerman, T. (2017). Grading for understanding–standards-based grading. The Physics Teacher, 55(1), 47-50. DOI:






Research Articles