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by Erica Fischer on Apr 27, 2015

Make Standards-Based Grading a Reality in Your Classroom!

Last week, #langchat participants met for a chat on standards-based grading. They began by defining this concept before discussing the kinds of assignments that should be graded in light of standards. Participants also shared suggestions about how to best communicate standards-based assessment practices to students and parents and how to develop standards-based rubrics. Lastly, they reflected on how standards-based grading can help students improve proficiency. As always, links were circulating and tabs were being opened by the second, with instructors and their computers experiencing information overload: “This is what happens on [Thursday] night when I open all the great links shared on #langchat.” (@KrisClimer). In case you missed a beat, your weekly #langchat summary is here!

Thank you to everyone who tuned in for the conversation and thank you to Thursday’s moderating team: Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), Amy (@alenord), Kris (@KrisClimer), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Cristy (@msfrenchteach)!

Question 1: What is standards-based grading?

At the start of the hour, participants offered their definitions of standards-based grading. @SECottrell wrote that this approach is about “evaluating student performance against specific benchmarks […], based on a spelled-out explanation of where students should be.” As several instructors pointed out, standard-based grading “reflects what the student can truly do with the language” (@Luzgriselda). @ProfeCochran said, “[Standards-based grading] is […] based on what [students] have LEARNED, not what they have copied and turned in or memorized for [a] test.” @SraSpanglish agreed, writing, “[This] means the numbers ONLY reflect proficiency–NOT compliance.” In the words of @espanolsrs, “[Standards-based grading] shows what the [students] actually know [versus] what [homework, etc.] they just didn’t do.” @ProfeCochran offered a metaphor to help us think about this grading philosophy: “[Standards-based grading] is like sports- [You] don’t get a trophy [for] practice, [you] get it for winning the championship. [You] still practice, but [assessment translates into a] grade.”

Question 2: What types of assignments should be graded in light of standards?

Langchatters overwhelmingly agreed that, in light of standards, summative assessments should be entered into the grade book. @MlleSulewski said, “[My grade book] is mostly summative assessments [that are] as performance based as [possible].” @espanolsrs recognized a common dilemma for those who uphold standards-based grading: “Ideally, only summative assessments [are graded], but [this becomes] difficult when [there is] pressure from [athletes or administrators] that there [need] to be ‘grades.’” @ProfeCochran noted that individuals must shift their thinking in transitioning to standards-based grading: “[The mindset] must change, too; just because [a grade] is on [a student’s] report card doesn’t mean it can’t change.” Aside from summative assessments, some participants suggested that instructors could give students some freedom in deciding what they wish to be graded on. For example, @KrisClimer asked, “Should [students] have some control over what they choose to [present to] demonstrate their mastery? Portfolio style?” @rlgrandis also mentioned portfolios as possible material for standards-based grades: “[I] would like to try out portfolios in future…”

In terms of formative assessments, most instructors felt that they should not find their way into the grade book. @espanolsrs wrote, “I don’t think true formative should be graded ‘entered’ in a grade book. I think they provide feedback [and] direction.” @SraSpanglish agreed, writing, “[Formative assessments should be] done, just not counted in grade. Practice [doesn’t equal] proficiency after all.”

Question 3: How do you communicate standards-based assessment practices to students and parents?

#Langchat participants also reflected on how to present standards-based assessment practices to students and their parents. In terms of timing, @KrisClimer said, “I feel like the communication really has to be upfront, [at the] beginning of the year, and [I] think hand holding [should take place] during [the] first year.” @ProfeCochran includes information in her syllabus, but also provides students with constant reminders throughout the year: “[Student:] ‘But I turned in everything.’ Me: ‘It’s not effort, it’s proficiency!’ #honorthestruggle.” @natadel76 also uses open house as an opportunity to discuss standards-based assessment: “[At] open house I use [@SECottrell’s] ‘taco’ [document] to explain proficiency [and] my evaluation practices. (@SECottrell shared this resource with participants: ‘Let’s talk tacos: Informing parents [and] students on proficiency’: @MmeCarbonneau shared her school’s definition of proficiency ( with her added definitions ( as an additional resource. @tmsaue1 offered encouragement in pointing out that many parents may already be familiar with standards-based grading and are likely simply in need of a reminder: “[Many] parents get the idea of [standards-based grading] because so many elementary schools use [a] version of it; [they] just need to be reminded [about it] at [the high school] level.”

Question 4: How do you develop standards-based rubrics?

Participants then offered tips for developing standards-based rubrics:

  • Collaborate: @MeganCMoMo said, “[It’s] best to work with another [teacher]. Start with the definition of proficient and then work up and [down] from there.”
  • Be consistent: @alenord wrote, “I HIGHLY suggest developing standard rubrics that always stay the same.”
  • Offer opportunities for required or recommended re-writes: @kltharri said, “[My] writing rubrics have a rewrite [required] and rewrite optional [note].”

Langchatters also shared links to ready-made rubrics. @natadel76 posted Ohio’s new proficiency evaluation rubrics:, and @SraSpanglish directed participants to ACTFL’s proficiency guidelines:

Question 5: How can standards-based grading help students improve proficiency?

Langchatters acknowledged a number of ways that standards-based grading can foster student improvement. @KrisClimer noted that this form of grading provides students with “[honest] feedback,” telling them: “Here’s what you Can REALLY do, can ALMOST do, etc.” He observed, “Proficiency emerges as [students] expand this list.” @ProfeCochran added, “When [students] know exactly where they stand, they can begin to effectively reflect on how to improve.” @SECottrell suggested making rubrics as visual as possible in order to help students understand their trajectory: “[The] more visual the rubric, the better. [This let’s students see] where [they’ve] been, see where [they want to] be [and see] how to get there.” @SenorGrayNVD pointed out that this helps “students see upward movement towards mastery, not a grade that is permanent,” adding, “That is motivating and leads to proficiency.” @kltharri recognized the value of student reflection: “For me, the reflection [students] have done has been phenomenal for their personal learning journey.” As added benefits, some participants noted that standards-based grading holds students accountable for their learning. @ProfeCochran said, “[Standards-based grading] helps families understand that parents can’t always do the work for [their] children.” @JessieOelke replied, “TRUE! [It eliminates] cheating between peers as well.”


#Langchat participants acknowledged the benefits of standards-based grading and helped fellow instructors reflect on how to incorporate this approach in their own classrooms. They noted that standards-based grading helps students to visualize their progress in learning a language. As @alenord wrote, “Not every day is [a] success on this journey. Give [students] room to gain skill so they can shine when it counts.”

In case you are eager to read more on standards-based grading, check out these past #langchat summaries, kindly shared by @SECottrell:

Thank You!

Thank you to all of our participants for their commitment to #langchat! You can find us on Twitter every Thursday night for the weekly chat. *Reminder*: In case you can’t join us at that time, now you can also #langchat on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET – Same questions, more chat time!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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