Standards-Based Grading: 3 Keys to Easing Teacher Resistance

Author: Eric Patnoudes | Standards-Based Grading |

Let’s face it, change is hard. Especially when you’ve been doing something for so long that it has become part of your identity. The desire to change occurs often. Knowing what steps to take in order to do things in new ways is not always clear. We had the pleasure of working with Lisa Westman, a frequent speaker on standards-based grading, differentiated instruction, and instructional coaching. She provides three keys for how school leaders can bring teachers along on the journey to standards-based grading (SBG).

Empathize with Teachers

  • Many, if not all educators, are familiar with letter grades and understand how grading works. They have become part of our identity. The shift to standards-based grading is not only a systematic change. It can affect the ego because it alters that identity.
  • Before standards-based grading, we asked teachers to differentiate instruction. We expected them to grade students according to where they were in relation to their peers.
  • Look at report cards as bank statements. The minute that statement is put in your mailbox, it already has become obsolete. There are changes that have already been made since it was mailed. That’s why we have online systems to check things as they stand in real-time. The same capability exists when looking at grades.

Ensure a Solid Understanding of the Foundational Pieces of SBG

  • Start with ensuring that your teachers have a clear understanding of the universal tenants of standards-based grading and what exactly is non-negotiable in your district. It’s crucial to have a unified vision for the following questions: What are we doing, why are we doing it, and what does that look like?
  • Next, invest in differentiated professional development that helps teachers feel confident in moving away from the instructional routines they used to rely on in the past. For example, a student receiving a lower grade for turning in an assignment late, or not including homework as part of the overall grade. Many resistant teachers understand the value of such changes but don’t know how to actually do these things in their daily practice.
  • Lisa shares the final piece to a successful and sustainable standards-based rollout: make certain the instructional strategies have been determined and are understood by your staff before looking at reporting.
    • Grade-level teams and/or departments have clearly defined learning intentions and success criteria according to the standards.
    • Formative assessment is utilized consistently and correctly.
    • Instruction is differentiated for students.

Equip Teachers with Appropriate Tools

  • One thing that can lead to teacher resistance happens when teachers have a solid understanding of the universal tenants and a shared loyalty to foundational principles of standards-based grading, and then there’s a missing system or tool needed to share important information about student learning. This results in teachers spending a lot of time creating spreadsheets or manipulating systems not intended for standards-based grading. Teachers experience misplaced frustration. Lisa says this is because they’re spending a lot of time and cognitive space trying to learn a tool when they haven’t yet figured the instructional piece.

If you would like to learn more about Lisa’s approach or how to contact her to work with your district, you can email her or check out the downloadable audio and video recording of her webinar.   

Continue the Learning

We are on a mission to simplify educational technology by helping educators assemble a holistic display of student interest, engagement, performance, and growth. From Dr. Tom Guskey to Rick Wormeli or Lee Ann Jung, Otus is committed to viewing standards-based grading from every angle. Request a demo below to learn how you can implement SBG with Otus.

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