Ultimately, our goals are to foster a genuine love for learning, cultivate student efficacy, and preserve academic excellence.

As we wrestle with the implications of various grading systems on student learning, we are thankful for the group of teachers who have agreed to pilot the standards-based learning approach this year. Despite a demanding teaching load, these unsung heroes have committed to learning alongside their students to provide invaluable feedback and insights. Having completed our first quarter, we would like to share some of their observations with our parents.

Initially the students, especially in high school, were concerned about how the standards-based approach would translate to a traditional letter grade. However, over time many students shifted their questions away from “How do I get an ‘A’?” to thoughtful inquiries about their actual learning. Several pilot teachers reported more in-depth and meaningful conversations centered on progress on specific goals. Feedback became more actionable, and students no longer haggled over percentage points. The pilot teachers felt a collective ease as grade anxiety noticeably dropped, and quality of work improved.

As a school, we wondered if moving away from traditional grades would negatively impact student motivation. However, several pilot teachers witnessed the opposite, challenging the notion that conventional grades are the primary driver for student achievement. A student shared, “Honestly, I really want to be an opponent of standard-based grading, but it’s helped me improve a lot in this class regarding my learning. I’m less stressed about my grade, and it lets me focus more on the skills I’m supposed to learn.”

Unsurprisingly, some of our oldest students in the pilot program have had the most challenging time with standards-based learning. After more than ten years of traditional grading, these students understandably seek to measure their performance (not learning) in letter grades and percentages. However, they have asked great questions and spurred thoughtful conversations, and we are thankful for their perspectives.

Ultimately, our goals are to foster a genuine love for learning, cultivate student efficacy, and preserve academic excellence. To accomplish this, we continue to invite all our students and parents to share their questions, experiences, and insights as we journey together.

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