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Standards-Based Grading: Literature

**Marzano, R.J. (2009). Formative assessment and standards-based grading: Classroom strategies that work (pp.15-19 and 105-123). Indianapolis, IN: Solution Tree Press. Available for purchase at


This book reviews practices for classroom assessments including both formative assessment and grading. We have included two excerpts from this book that focus on grading:


An excerpt of the introduction (pp.15-19) provides an overview of the various types of grading systems—norm-referenced, self-referenced, and standards-based grading—including their strengths and drawbacks.


Chapter Six (pp. 105-123) shares various methods for teachers to use when implementing standards-based grading, in order to translate individual student work to a grade reflecting their understanding. The author then shares how schools and districts can approach a standards-based report card to share this information with parents and students.


**O’Connor, K. (2009, January). Reforming grading practices in secondary schools. Principal’s Research Review, 2(1), Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals. Available at


Arguing that traditional grading practices produce inconsistent and less meaningful grades, this article makes several suggestions for reforming grading practices in secondary schools. The authors argue, for instance, that grades must be about demonstration of knowledge rather than behavior, summative (not formative) assessments should be the primary basis for grades, and teachers need to reconsider how they treat late work, missed assignments in order to ensure that students become intrinsically motivated to learn.


Reeves, D.B. (2004, December). The case against the zero. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(4), 324-325. Available at


This short piece argues against assigning a value of zero to a student’s missed assignment because a zero (or “F”) on a scale of 100 is overly punitive. Rather, the authors argue that teachers should consider other consequences for students’ failure to complete an assignment—including taking away other privileges (e.g., free periods, study hall) until the student completes the assignment and demonstrates proficiency of understanding. Teachers could also consider changing to a “mathematically accurate punishment,” either by assigning a 50 (instead of a zero) to a missed assignment or by changing to a 4-point grading scale (A=4, B=3, etc.) which would create equal intervals between all grades.


Scriffiny, P. L. (2008, October). Seven reasons for standards-based grading. Educational Leadership, 66(2), 70-74. Available online at


This article argues for standards-based grading as a more effective grading tool than traditional point-based grades in secondary schools. The author believes that standards-based grades better reflect a student’s progress toward achieving proficiency of understanding and allow a teacher to reflect more deeply both on their own instructional strategies and how a missed assignment or an attendance problem should affect a student’s overall grade.


Guskey, T.R.  (2006). Making high school grades meaningful. Phi Delta Kappan, 87(9), 670-675. Available at


This article emphasizes that high school teachers often use “hodgepodge grading”, drawing from numerous sources of evidence in determining students’ grades and not accurately reflecting students’ knowledge or skills. Instead, teachers should separate grades on three categories: product (students’ achievement), process (students’ effort and behavior) and progress (students’ growth). The author argues that while grades based exclusively on “product criteria”—the approach supported by advocates of standards-based teaching—measure students’ achievement, they fail to capture important non-academic factors (attitude, effort, behavior, etc.). By identifying specific learning purposes and criterion linked to grades, teachers can transform grades into more meaningful, equitable, and communicative structures. 


**This document is considered a priority reading.