The Standards-Based Grading and Reporting System

  • A grade is the ultimate form of feedback to a student and it must be accurate. As a result, Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) is working diligently to ensure every scholar's grade is accurate.

    In our pursuit to ensure accuracy of grades, we have relied on research-based best practices, experts in the field, and we recently convened a panel of seven admissions officers from local colleges to review our approach to grading, specifically, standardsbased grading and reporting (SBGR).
    In light of the questions raised around our efforts, we want to provide our perspective to add clarity to the work we are doing.

    1. Why standards-based grading and reporting?

    With standards-based grading and reporting, student grades are directly linked to what students should know and be able to do (standards). SBGR gives students the practice they need, and more than one opportunity, to show success of standards. This ensures students and parents know what is the next step is in mastery toward being career and college ready.

    2. How does standards-based grading and reporting work?
    In traditional grading, students are measured by the percentage of work completed, not mastery of standards. SBGR grading is based on mastery of standards. Each student’s work is measured against the standard, not other students or other characteristics such as work completion, cooperation, participation, and effort. These characteristics are important in the world of work, which is why in SBGR we report it separately. This helps to ensure accuracy and decrease inflation or deflation of a student’s grade.
    3. Does the current grading system motivate scholars?

    The letter grade or percent alone is not what motivates students. Research says students are more motivated by the use of timely verbal and written feedback to help them learn with an accurate grade that accompanies the feedback.

    4. Why not give a student a plus or minus?

    Research tells us a decrease in the number of score categories (number of scales/levels — 4 pt., 8 pt.) increases the consistency and validity of grades across classrooms.

    5. How does the district grading system support our students who compete for entry into universities?
    In early March 2018, FWPS organized a district and community wide college admissions panel discussion and invited all parents and community for this event. We wanted to know how our grading system aligned to college admissions practices. This panel included admissions officers from seven colleges, including, University of Washington, Western Washington University, Renton Technical College, Green River College, University of Puget Sound, Eastern Washington University, and Seattle Colleges.  Admissions officers shared with us they base admissions on their own calibration of each district’s grading system across the country because no school district shares a similar GPA calculation. Admissions officers also indicated no FWPS scholar has been denied admission into their university or college as a result of our grading system.  

    FWPS fully embraces input from our parents and community to ensure excellence in educating each of our 23,000 scholars. Over the past two school years, approximately 60 students, parents, teachers and principals convened to inform our current grading system. We invited our community to a forum held in January 2018 to provide valuable feedback on the committee’s work.

    We stand by the work of our grading system based on research best practices, experts in the field, and input from our community to ensure accurate grades for all scholars. Check out to learn more about this commitment.