Does SBG make school too easy for students?
Because standards-based grading may mean that more students will reach higher levels of proficiency by the end of the year, some families and teachers worry that it also means that school is being made too easy for students. That is not the case. Instead of collecting a bunch of marks throughout the year and taking their average to calculate student grades, teachers constantly provide students with feedback and challenge them to keep improving upon their learning. Self-improvement, not mediocrity, is encouraged. The higher grades at the end of the year reflect student growth, not teachers making things easier for students.
Is it impossible for students to fail?
With SBG, teachers base their students' final grades on the evidence of learning that they collected. They look at that evidence to see if the students have met the standard for a passing grade. If a student didn't do most of the work, the teacher doesn't have enough evidence to give them a passing grade. If the student did most of the work, but the work shows that they did not meet the standards of the course, they may also receive a failing grade.
Can students slack off all year and then complete a few assignments at the end in order to pass?
When people hear that the final mark is based on the student's final progress and ignores earlier mistakes, they often misunderstand and think that this means that students can still do well even if they didn't take school seriously for most of the year. That is not true for several reasons:
- Teachers need clear, consistent evidence of the student's understanding to determine a final grade. If the student missed most of the assignments for the year, the teacher may feel they don't have enough evidence for a passing grade.
- Not every standard will be covered on every assignment or in every unit. If the student skipped a lot of classes or didn't do any homework for most of the year, they probably didn't demonstrate strong understanding of several standards.
- Teachers will look for patterns of improvement in the student's work. They may ignore a small number of outliers (e.g. a forgotten homework assignment, a failed quiz), but they can't ignore a consistent pattern of missing work.
Does SBG make it easier for students to recover from absences and other mistakes?
Yes, to a point. When calculating a student's mark, teachers look for the pattern of improvement in a student's understanding. If a student struggled on early assignments, but showed improved understanding towards the end of the unit, the teacher can choose to base the course grade on the later work. If a student goes away on a family trip in the middle of the year and misses some work, but comes back to class and demonstrates strong understanding of what they missed, the teacher may choose to ignore the missing work when they write report cards. But if the student misses a lot of classes or doesn't ask for help when they are struggling or doesn't read the feedback on their assignments and continues to make the same mistakes, it will be reflected in their marks because there will be no evidence of improved understanding in their work.
Is it impossible for a student's mark to go down?
While the final mark is based on the student's progress and will likely be higher than marks received earlier in the year, it is not impossible for a student's mark to fall. A student's mark may decrease for many reasons:
- They may struggle with new standards that were introduced later in the year.
- As more evidence of learning is collected over the course of the school year, gaps in the student's understanding may become more apparent.
- The student may have gone through a period where they skipped a lot of classes or didn't hand in several assignments meaning the teacher didn't have clear evidence of their understanding of some parts of the course.
- Some course work may become more challenging over the course of the year, and the student may struggle with the increased difficulty.
Will students be able to get into post-secondary school?
It is true that most post-secondary institutions expect students to report letter grades or percentages as part of the application process. For grades 10-12, teachers are also expected to include a letter grade and percentage on report cards. It is possible to convert standards-based feedback and proficiency language into a letter grade and percentage.