The purpose of standards-based grading is to more accurately and consistently communicate student progress toward district identified learning standards, as well as behavioral and cognitive habits of scholarship.

 Middle School Standards-Based Grading Scale

4 M


The student demonstrates a deep and engrained level of knowledge and skill related to course standards at this grade level for this point in the school year.


3 P


The student demonstrates a competent level of knowledge and skill related to course standards at this grade level for this point in the school year.


2 E


The student demonstrates a developing, but incomplete level of knowledge and skill related to course standards at this grade level for this point in the school year.


1 L


The student demonstrates scanty level of knowledge and skill related to course standards at this grade level for this point in the school year.



Insufficient Evidence

Insufficient evidence has been gathered to indicate an accurate grade due to absences and/or non-completion of assessments.




MSP’s Principles of Grading…A Filter for Our Work

MSP uses six common grading principles and district-defined grading criteria to reduce the subjectivity of individual teacher grades. Standards-based grading tends to be less subjective than the traditional A-F grading system where the components of academic achievement are less well defined. At MSP, teachers do not grade in isolation; instead, they collaborate with their colleagues to create scoring rubrics that provide specific criteria and communicate student progress in a way that is more detailed and less subjective than the traditional point-based system of an A-F grading system.


Principle 1:

Grades and reports should be based on clearly specified learning goals and performance standards – MSP teachers have been working together in Professional Learning Communities(PLCs) for several years analyzing the Connecticut and National standards required at each grade level and in each curricular area. They have created rubrics (scoring guides) and assessments for each subject area.



Principle 2:

Evidence typically used for grading should be valid

Used in Grading*

Should Not Directly Influence Grading*

·       Summative and Performance/Product based Assessments used to evaluate student learning, skill acquisition, and academic achievement at the conclusion of a defined instructional period—typically at the end of a project, unit, course, semester, program, or school year

·       Application of Learnings

·       Differentiation for ELL and Special Education


·       Limited Technology

·       Late work

·       Daily “formative assessments”

·       Penmanship

·       Extra Credit

·       Homework**

·       Citizenship or “Habits of Scholarship”


*This is not meant to include all possible examples



Principle 3:

Grading should be based on established criteria MSP teachers have been working together in PLCs to determine the core standards for each subject. Here is an example of what will appear on your child’s report card:


  • determine central ideas
  • cite text evidence
  • analyze information


  • Produce focused, clear, organized writing
  • Develop ideas
  • Demonstrate correct usage of standard English grammar and mechanics


Principle 4:

Not everything should be included in grades – As mentioned in Principle 2, students should not be penalized in assessing their mastery of a standard because of thigs like: limited access to technology, poor penmanship, or difficulty completing homework.  In addition, teachers will “score” and provide feedback to students on things like pre-tests, homework, daily classwork and practice, drafts, and formative assessments, but not include these in final grades. Grades are based on summative assessments, final projects and performance tasks. The reasoning behind this, is that when you include grades on pre-tests, practice and formative assessments, you are not giving a valid assessment of the student’s mastery of a standard, because you are including scores the student was given when they were unfamiliar with the standard or just developing an understanding.


Principle 5:

Grade a standard based on most recent work, not the averagePrincipal 5 is related to principle 4.  Grades should be based on the student’s cumulative knowledge of a standard, not the average of the student’s performances on that standard.  Early attempts at the standard are part of the learning process and not necessarily reflective of what the student’s final mastery level will be, and when they are included can skew the final average lower than is truly reflective of the student’s accumulative skill.  For example:



Using Average to assess final grade

Using Most Recent to assess final grade

Writing Arguments to support claims

Assessment 1



Assessment 2

0 missing


Assessment 3



Assessment 4



Assessment 5



Final Grade

2 = E

           4 = M


Principle 6:

Report achievement and other factors separately -  It is important to provide feedback and assess student behaviors that contribute to success in school, but those “Habits of Scholarship” should be assessed separately from determining mastery of curriculum standards.  MSP will provide feedback to students and parents through an assessment of Habits of Scholarship as follows:


(4) M Mastered; (3) P Proficient; (2) E Emergent; (1) L Limited; IE Insufficient Evidence


The Student Demonstrates:

Respectful Behavior

·       Respects others’ space and property

·       Treats materials and technology with care

·       Interacts with others appropriately

·       Shows consideration and/or empathy for others


A Growth Mindset

·       Responds to errors and feedback positively and as a chance to learn

·       Tries new approaches to tough problems

·       Attempts challenging work

·       Perseveres


Independent Responsibility

·       Completes homework with care and diligence

·       Comes to class with all required materials

·       Responsible and ethical use of technology

·       Meets deadlines


Classroom Responsibility

·       Starts work when prompted

·       Uses class time with care and diligence

·       Uses accountable talk strategies

·       Collaborates with others on group work





Standards-Based Grading Frequently Asked Questions 

What are the advantages of Standards-Based Grading?

o   Allows students, teachers, and parents/guardians to gauge each student’s progress per standard

o   Represents more accurate representation of student’s knowledge and skills at each marking period

o   Provides multiple chances for students to show what they know

o   Doesn’t penalize students for mistakes made during the learning process

o   Increase consistency in grading policies and criteria across teachers and schools


What are the main differences from traditional grading?

o   Standards-based grading focuses on a student’s progress toward meeting grade level standards rather than a simple accumulation of points.

o   It uses a 4-point scale (M, P, E, L, IE) rather than a 100 point scale (A= 90-100, B=80-99, C=70-79, D=60-69, F= 0-50).

o   To earn the highest mark of an “M”, students must demonstrate deep and lasting understanding of the standard, not just general understanding of the standard, requiring students to show they can think more deeply and tackle more complex problems on their assignments.

o   It is less subject to being influenced by non-academic behaviors, such as tardiness or not speaking up in class.

o   Grades are determined by each student’s ability to meet standard; not on how he or she compares to other students in the class. All students are expected to meet or exceed standard. Course grades are not based “on a curve”; all of the students that meet high standards can receive high grades.


How will this prepare my student for high school and the high school grading system?

Students who experience standards-based grading in K-8 are prepared for high school, even if their high school teachers continue to use a more traditional system, because they are aware of the content knowledge and skills they have achieved, and because they are pushed to become more independent learners who take more responsibility for their learning.


Why aren’t formative assessments or homework assignments a major part of a student’s grade, why should students take them seriously?


o   Formative assessments and homework allow students to try out what they are learning without having to worry about how it affects their final grade.

o   Teachers create formative assignments to gain insight into levels of student learning and to check for gaps in students’ understanding.

o   Homework is used for practice, to prepare students for upcoming learning, and to reinforce and extend learning, but never to learn material for the first time.

o   When students don’t complete homework, it becomes evident in their Habits of Scholarship scores, formative assessment feedback, and benchmark assessment scores.

o   When these warning signs arise, students can then (with the help of their teachers and parents/guardians) set goals and develop plans to better support their own learning.

o   Under standards-based grading, students are not relieved of the responsibility to participate in ALL aspects of their classes. Frequent independent practice of what is taught in class aids long-term learning.


What does my child need to do to achieve an “M”?

o   It is important to understand that an M in standards-based grading is not the same as earning an “A” in the traditional system.

o   MSP School District defines an M as “The student demonstrates a deep and engrained level of knowledge and skill related to course standards at this grade level for this point in the school yearThis means that students need to do more than simply have a basic understanding of the course. To earn an “M” students need to demonstrate they have a greater understanding by elaborating on their answers, solving more challenging problems, or showing connections between varying concepts that they have made on their own.

o   Some students may find this aspect of standards-based grading more challenging since “going above and beyond the minimum standard” may take extra effort and persistence.


If my child does everything that is asked of her/him, why doesn’t she/he get an M (or P)?

o   In a Standards-Based Grading system a student’s grade depends on showing mastery of the standards. Completing the assigned work is important to a student’s learning, but assignments will be graded based on what a student is able to show what they know.

o   Grades determined in our standards based grading system more accurately show what students know and can do.

o   If a student completes all assigned work, but is unable to demonstrate mastery of the content knowledge, the student will not receive an M or P.



What are the differences between a score of an “L”, “IE”, and “NA”?

o   If a student earns a L, it means that he/she completed and submitted the assessment or assignment; however, their work shows a lack of understanding and little grade-level knowledge. It is important that the student reviews this standard and works with the teacher to identify his/her next steps and receive further instruction to prepare for the next assessment or a retake opportunity.

o   An “IE” is given when there is not enough evidence for a teacher to assess a student’s understanding or progress towards standards. Typically, this means that a student did not turn in or complete an assessment or assignment. If a student earns an IE, they need to speak to their teacher immediately to determine if they can still turn in or redo the assessment in question; or complete an alternate assessment to make-up the grade.

o   The “NA” code is used by a teacher when a standard is not assessed that quarter. Because this is a teacher-decision based on unit pacing, there is no action that needs to be taken on the part of the student. With multiple standards throughout the year, not all are assessed each quarter.