Standards-Based Grading for Mastery

We have had an excellent start to our High School this year, and the credit goes to our students for bringing their enthusiasm, energy, and trust every day. They believe we can prepare them for college, and we are honored by the opportunity to do so.

Because college preparation is our goal, we are using an approach to teaching and learning that looks something like apprenticeship. We call it Standards-Based Grading for Mastery, and the goal of this approach to education is to equip our students with the real and relevant skills they will need as they enter the university system.

California colleges and universities report some alarming statistics regarding the preparedness of incoming college freshmen. One measure shows that over half of all California State University students are not allowed to register for their first university courses in math and English until they take remedial classes to improve their skill levels. This means that high schools are graduating students with high grades, but low skills.

In order to make sure that our students have both high grades and the skills necessary for college coursework, we are basing their grades on their performance of the skills that are described in the CA learning standards for each course we teach. We use a measuring tool called a “Rubric,” which applies a number 4, 3, 2, or 1 as a rating for performance. The final rating for performance does not happen until the end of the semester, but as students practice their skills, the ratings improve over time.

A student’s final grade is based on an average of all of the ratings they receive in a semester. The range of averages and the grades that correspond to each range can be located on our grading scale.  

Right now, your children are barely learning and practicing their new skills. Our organization requires that we give you a graded progress report every 5 weeks, with the 20th week of each semester serving as the final grade that goes on a High School Transcript. If your child’s grades are not as high as you might expect when you receive the progress report, remember that we are not grading our students on how responsible they are or on the amount of work they turn in. Instead, we are rating their skill levels, and skills take time to master. The best grades they see should be at the end of the semester, when their skills are truly mastered, and when grades become permanent.