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An Introduction to Standards Based Assessment in the Elementary Classroom

Standards based assessment is a method teachers can use to report student mastery of learning outcomes.  Rather than accumulate point scores, teachers gather evidence of student learning through a variety of formal and informal activities.  Students are able to practice skills multiple times, which allows teachers the opportunity to provide specific strength-based feedback and suggestions for growth.

What does standards based assessment look like?

Percentages and letter grades have no place in standards based grading.  Instead, teachers will assess based on levels of mastery.  There are many different verbiages possible, but it may look like: 
  • Emerging: With help, the student demonstrates partial success with developing or proficient content.
  • Developing: Basic or simple content that need to be in place first before students can be proficient.
  • Proficient: Target content.
  • Extending: Complex, in-depth applications of the target content.  


What beliefs and practices do teachers need to let go of?

  • Grades motivate
  • Everything needs a grade
  • Students won't work without letter grades


What steps do teachers need to make to reform their grading style?

  • Take non-academic factors out of the grade
  • Eliminate extra credit unless it demonstrates mastery
  • Take homework out of the grade
  • Empower students with more self-assessment


What are the benefits of standards based assessment?

  • Helps to take the subjective nature out of assessment
  • Prioritizes outcomes in each subject area
  • Clearly communicates learning outcomes to students and parents
  • Helps teachers to provide meaningful feedback
  • Allows teachers the ability to differentiate instruction
  • Clearly communicates to students strategies/methods needed for achieving next levels of mastery

A quick example of a proficiency scale might look like this:

Want to know more? Get my step-by-step guide to creating proficiency scales here:


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