Programs for standards-based learning. Chad Kainz (image modified). Creative Commons.

Shining a Light on Standards-Based Grading Programs

3 standards-based programs that help students and teachers move from managing points to mastering concepts.

The benefits of using standards-based grading can change the way all stakeholders view education. By making the grading system about the learning rather than about arbitrary and often subjective numbers does wonders for building relationships between students, teachers, and parents. Conversations don’t revolve around a single test score, but rather around the levels of mastery and understanding that reflect student learning.

While a point value may have been easy to fill a grade book square, it did little to report on learning. Finding a program that allows teachers to share levels of understanding shines a brand new light on what occurs in the classroom. We’ve found 3 such programs that make this illuminating process much easier.

Active Grade
With the Active Grade system, a teacher’s gradebook is comprised of individual learning goals and standards rather than assignments. These standards are uploaded by the teacher to reflect a true picture of the learning that takes place in the classroom. As students complete assignments and activities, their mastery of the learning goals within those activities are recorded. As students are given more opportunities to show mastery of a learning goal, the intelligent calculation done by Active Grade reflects the new achievements in the final grade. This ensures that an initial misunderstanding or struggle with a concept is not held against a student when they are eventually able to show mastery through continued practice and/or explicit strategies. Comments and evidence can be attached to learning goal scores, and students are also able to reply to teacher comments within the gradebook. Individual teacher memberships are available for $40, and group memberships are $60 per user.

FreshGrade is a program that allows teachers and students to capture and share the learning process. The teacher app allows for the real-time gathering of video, pictures, audio, and/or notes which can then be added to student portfolios and immediately shared with parents. With this real-time component, parents are able to gain a digital window into classroom life. Students can also self-document the learning process by adding comments, links, videos, documents, etc. to their online portfolios. Teachers, students, and parents are able to view and comment on portfolios, which keeps all stakeholders involved in the learning process. The gradebook portion of the program allows teachers to customize assessments, create categories, and weight activities to reflect formative and summative assessments. A variety of icons for mastery levels help teachers share a quick visual snapshot of student understanding within the gradebook. With the innovative capturing of learning, FreshGrade allows a picture to speak a thousand words at zero cost to teachers (school and district partnerships also available)!

Jump Rope
This standards-based grading program was first developed to manage attendance and character development, and now these two components have been coupled with a standards-based gradebook and curriculum design tools. The gradebook allows teachers to create their own standards or use existing options, such as, state or common core standards. Student learning can be recorded in a variety of ways (i.e., percentages, rubrics, developing/meets/exceeds). These scores can then be generated into multiple formats to meet the reporting needs of the district. The character component allows teachers to track student work habits which can be a very telling aspect when discussing student progress with stakeholders. All of these informative facets come in a single program that is free for teachers. Of course, there are packages for schools and districts to check all the boxes of administrative needs.

The beauty of standards-based grading programs is that they allow all stakeholders to have an informed and refreshed outlook on learning. Finding a program that captures learning outcomes and fits the needs of students, teachers, and parents can really reawaken a love of learning. These three overviews should have teachers well on their way to making the best choice for improving how learning is reported.

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