Standards-Based Grading

In Boonville R-1 School District primary and elementary schools, we believe student achievement occurs through clearly defined standards and authentic learning opportunities. We strive to provide accurate, meaningful, and timely feedback to students and parents throughout the learning process. Reporting of student achievement reflects student progress toward mastery of key academic concepts and identifies multiple pathways to deeper learning. 

What is standards-based grading? 

Standards-based grading communicates how students perform on clearly defined learning targets called standards. The purpose of standards-based grading is to identify what a student knows or can do in relation to those learning targets - as opposed to simply averaging grades/scores throughout the grading period, which can mask what a student has learned or not learned. 

Why standards-based grading? 

Standards-based grading reports what students should know and be able to do within each content area at each grade level. The real-time monitoring of student performance reflects a more accurate picture of student achievement. Additional reasons for standards-based grading include:  Other methods of grading do not accurately indicate what a student knows and is able to do.  Students can explain what they learned or did not learn rather than recite a percentage.  It can benefit all learners - students who struggle and students whose learning is accelerated. Students’ progress towards standards can assist staff in determining intervention or enrichment opportunities.  Our schools provide parents with information on specific standards while receiving meaningful feedback. 

How does standards-based differ from traditional grading? 

A standards-based grading system measures a student’s mastery of grade-level standards by prioritizing the most recent, consistent level of performance. A student who may have struggled at the beginning of a content or course when first learning new material may still be able to demonstrate mastery of key content/concepts by the end of the school year. In traditional grading systems, a student’s performance for an entire quarter is averaged together. Early quiz scores that were low would be averaged together with more proficient performance later in the course, resulting in a lower overall grade than current performance indicates. Standards-based report cards also separate academic performance from work habits/behavior to give parents a more accurate view of a student’s progress in both areas. Effort, participation, cooperation, and attendance are reported separately, not as a part of academic performance. 

How are my student’s “grades” determined? 

A student’s performance on a series of assessments will be used to determine overall mastery, much as it has in the past. The difference will be reporting mastery levels indicated by a number scale instead of letters. Levels of achievement will be clearly defined using standards-based scoring guides. Practice assignments and homework will serve primarily as a source of feedback and instructional support for both students and teachers rather than “grades.”

What can families expect to see on grade cards?

Boonville Elementary Schools will use a 1-4 point grading scale to communicate what students know and can do. A 3 equals grade-level mastery. The expectation is for students to achieve a 3 by the end of the year. Families will see these scores on learning objectives rather than an entire subject.

Standards-Based Grading Example Illustration



  • Level 1: The student has all the materials to bake cupcakes but doesn't know what to do with the materials.

  • Level 2: The student has the materials to bake cupcakes but needs some help from someone to get started.

  • Level 3: The student has the materials and understands how to make and bake cupcakes. The student bakes the cupcakes. (Level 3 is considered grade-level mastery.)

  • Level 4: The student understands the process and decides to do something completely different with the mix, making a birthday cake. The cake has a written saying, and candles have been added. The student understood the directions and went above and beyond what was asked of them.

Example written by education writer Kristen Nannini.