Article

TIES TIPS Foundations of Inclusion

TIP #12:
Standards-based Grading and Report Cards in Inclusive Elementary and Middle Schools

TIES Center | TIES Inclusive Practice Series (TIPS)

Introduction

Standards-based grading and report cards align with a standards-based curriculum to provide an accurate appraisal of student progress or performance. They achieve the primary purposes of grading and reporting grades, which include that grades are accurate, meaningful, consistent, and support the learning process (O’Connor, 2009). Standards-based grading is a recommended grading practice for students with disabilities in inclusive classes (Jung, 2012; Jung & Guskey, 2015). This TIPS sheet provides guidance on how to provide fair and accurate grades for students with significant cognitive disabilities in inclusive settings. It also addresses ways to report standards-based grades for students with significant cognitive disabilities.        

Evidence

Research is lacking on grading practices for students with disabilities, specifically for students with significant cognitive disabilities in inclusive settings. However, standards-based grading and reporting practices are recommended for all students with disabilities because of the direct connection to the curriculum standards. This connection between the content standards and the grading and reporting process improves accuracy, consistency, and meaningfulness (Jung, 2012; Jung & Guskey, 2015). Standards-based grading practices are recommended for use at all grade levels provided that they are aligned with grade-level content standards and performance expectations (Guskey & Bailey, 2001; O’Connor, 2009; Wormeli, 2006). Content standards are related to curriculum and achievement standards refer to statewide assessment performance. These are not the same. Content standards should have foundational alignment to the grade-level standard.

Implementation

Standards-based grading involves assigning grades based on mastery of specific learning standards (Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006). It communicates specific meaningful performance information against established standards and can be used for “diagnostic and prescriptive purposes” (Guskey & Bailey, 2001). One of the major benefits of using standards-based grading is that teachers can identify strengths and areas of need for each skill within a content area. Effective reporting of student performance focuses on the description of how the student performs on an explicit set of skills such as how the student sets up an addition word problem (Jung & Guskey; 2010). Example 1 illustrates a standards-based grading report card for reading in second grade.

Example 1:  Standards-based report card for elementary school 2nd grade reading standard

Reading Standard Skills

1st Qtr

2nd Qtr

3rd Qtr

4th Qtr

Year End

Uses basic reading skills to read fluently

3

3

3

3

3

Uses key ideas and details to comprehend passages

2

3

3

3

3

Uses vocabulary and structure to comprehend reading passages.

1

1

2

2

2

Uses knowledge and ideas from multiple sources to comprehend reading passages

2

2

2

2

2

A rubric is used to describe student performance. The number of levels in a rubric can be used across content areas, although the description of what each number means may differ. The rubric used in Example 1 has three levels of performance; the same three levels can be used across multiple content areas.  

Sample Standards-based Grading Rubric

  • 3 = Meets grade-level standard and can apply key concepts independently. Demonstrates processes and skills.
  • 2 = Approaching the grade-level standard, requires some support to demonstrate key concepts, processes, and skills.
  • 1 = Progressing toward the grade-level standard with on-going intensive support or modifications.

For example: A student scoring a “3” for the requirement of  “Using basic skills to read fluently” consistently demonstrates grade-level expectations and independently applies key concepts and skills.”  A score of “1” indicates the student is progressing toward the standard but still requires intensive supports.

When a grading rubric includes a “below standard level” that indicates “no progress even with support,” best practice suggests that there should have been communication about performance and appropriate supports provided well before the report card is delivered. 

Report cards may also contain an evaluation of work behaviors such as responsibility, work habits, attendance, and homework. These should be rated separately so that teams and families can determine where additional supports are needed – for academic content or for work behaviors such as organization, work habits, or motivation. Example 2 shows a report card on work behaviors using a 3-level rubric.

Example 2. Report card for grading work behaviors

Work Behaviors

1st Qtr

2nd Qtr

3rd Qtr

4th Qtr

Year End

Work Habits – sets goals, organizes materials, manages time.

2

3

3

3

3

Attentive – Listens, follows directions, participates

2

2

3

3

3

Cooperative- works well with others, contributes to group work and class discussion.

3

3

3

3

3

Homework – completes homework within specified time.

2

2

3

3

3

Responsible – respects others, property, authority; accepts responsibility for behavior.

3

3

3

3

3

Resourceful - solves problems, seeks help, pursues new learning opportunities.

2

2

3

3

3

Reflective- thinks and asks questions, evaluates own performances, provides reasons for choices/opinions.

2

2

2

2

3

A three-level rubric is used to describe student performance on each work behavior. The rubric used in Example 2 has three levels of performance.

Sample Rubric for Work Behaviors

  • 3 = Demonstrates consistency and independence.
  • 2 = Requires occasional support and reminders.
  • 1 = Often requires support and reminders.

Grading Prerequisite and Foundational Skills

When a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities is working on prerequisite or foundational skills related to a grade-level standard, grading and reporting should be adapted to include the specific prerequisite or foundational skills. The prerequisite or foundational skills should represent those approved under the state’s alternate assessment program and, as much as, be possible directly related to the specific grade-level content standards. In addition to the specification of the standard, the grading rubric may be adapted to more clearly communicate specific learning outcomes. Grades of a student’s progress on prerequisite and foundational skills may also be provided in a separate progress-monitoring report. An example of a possible rubric for these skills is:

Sample Rubric for Prerequisite and Foundational Skills
  • 3 = Student meets prerequisites [foundational] skills related to the grade-level standard and can apply key concepts independently. Student demonstrates processes and skills.

  • 2 = Student is approaching the prerequisites [foundational] skills of the grade-level standard. Student requires some support to demonstrate key concepts, processes, and skills. 

  • 1 = Student is progressing toward the prerequisites [foundational] skills related to the grade-level standard, with on-going and intensive support or modifications.

Reporting progress on IEP goals that may be unrelated to the content standard should occur in regular progress reports that may be separate from report card grading. Example 3 is a completed Standards-based Report Card for a student working toward grade-level standards who does not have an IEP that also includes work behavior grading. Example 4 is for a student who has an IEP and is working on Foundational Standards aligned as closely as possible to grade-level standards. 

Example 3. Work behavior and standards-based report card for Joe Student

Our Elementary School 5th Grade 2019-20

Joe Student

Accommodations 504

Accommodations IEP

Modifications IEP

No

No

No

1st Qtr

2nd Qtr

3rd Qtr

4th Qtr

Year End

Reading Standards

Overall Grade

3

Uses basic reading skills to read fluently.

3

3

3

3

Uses key ideas and details to comprehend passages

2

3

3

3

Uses vocabulary and structure to comprehend reading passages.

1

1

2

2

Uses knowledge and ideas from multiple soruces to comprehend reading passages.

2

2

2

2

Writing Standards

Overall Grade

3

Writes for a purpose.

3

3

3

3

Spells accurately.

2

3

3

3

Uses grammar correctly.

1

1

2

2

Uses writing mechanics correctly.

2

2

2

2

Speaking and Listening

Overall Grade

3

Responds to and engages in discussion

3

3

3

3

Responds to and engages in presentations

2

3

3

3

Math Standards

Overall Grade

3

Understands numbers, fractions, and decimals.

3

3

3

3

Computes multi-digit numbers fluently (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)

2

3

3

3

Uses geometry concepts

2

Uses algebra concepts

2

Represents and interprets data to answer questions

2

Uses measurement skills and cncepts

2

Science Standards

Overall Grade

3

Understands Content

3

3

3

3

Understands processes

2

3

3

3

Social Studies

Overall Grade

3

Understands content

3

3

3

3

Uses map skills

2

3

3

3

Work Habits: Characteristics of a successful learner

Work Habits - set goals, organizes materials, manages time

2

3

3

3

3

Attentive - Listens, follows directions, participates

2

2

3

3

3

Cooperative - works well with others, contributes to gropu work and class discussion.

3

3

3

3

3

Responsible - repsect others, property, authority; accepts responsibility for behavior.

3

3

3

3

3

Resourceful - solves problems, seeks help, pursues new learning opportunities

2

2

3

3

3

Reflective - thinks and asks questions, evaluates own performances, provides reasons for choices/opinions.

2

2

2

2

3

Attendance

Days Present

37

44

46

49

176

Days Absent

0

0

0

1

1

Days Tardy

0

0

0

0

0

Special Area Classes

Art

Initiates project and works independently

A

A

A

A

A

Uses tools and materials appropriately

A

A

A

A

A

Music

Responsible - respects others, follows directions

A

A

A

A

A

Phsyical Education

Demonstrates physical skills

A

A

A

A

A

Code Explanation:

3 = Meets grade-level standard and can apply key concepts independently. Demonstrates processes and skills. 2 = Approaching the grade-level standard, requires some support to demonstrate key concepts, processes, and skills. 3 = Progressing toward grade-level standard with on-going and intensive support or modifications. A= Consistently exhibits behaviors, models for others. G= Exhibits the behaviors listed. S= Requires Support

Example 4. Foundational academic standards report for Sally Student

Our Elementary School 5th Grade 2019-20

Sally Student

Accommodations 504

Accommodations IEP

Modifications IEP

No

No

Yes

1st Qtr

2nd Qtr

3rd Qtr

4th Qtr

Year End

Reading Standards

Overall Grade

3

Uses foundational reading skills.

3

3

3

3

Uses foundational key ideas and details to comprehend passages

2

3

3

3

Uses foundational vocabulary and structure to comprehend reading passages.

1

1

2

2

Uses foundational knowledge and ideas from multiple sources to comprehend reading passages.

2

2

2

2

Writing Standards

Overall Grade

3

Writes for a purpose.

3

3

3

3

Spells accurately.

2

1

2

2

Uses grammar correctly.

1

1

2

2

Uses writing mechanics correctly.

2

2

2

2

Speaking and Listening

Overall Grade

3

Responds to and engages in discussion

3

3

3

3

Responds to and engages in presentations

2

3

3

3

Math Standards

Overall Grade

3

Understands foundational numbers, fractions, and decimals.

3

3

3

3

Computes numbers (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)

2

3

3

3

Uses geometry concepts

1

Uses algebra concepts

1

Represents and interprets data to answer questions

1

Uses measurement skills and cncepts

2

Science Standards

Overall Grade

2

Understands foundational content

2

2

2

2

Understands foundational processes

2

2

2

2

Social Studies Standards

Overall Grade

2

Understands foundational content

2

2

2

2

Uses foundational map skills

2

2

2

2

Work Habits: Characteristics of a successful learner

Work Habits - set goals, organizes materials, manages time

2

3

2

2

2

Attentive - Listens, follows directions, participates

2

3

3

3

2

Cooperative - works well with others, contributes to group work and class discussion.

2

2

2

2

2

Responsible - repsect others, property, authority; accepts responsibility for behavior.

2

2

2

2

2

Resourceful - solves problems, seeks help, pursues new learning opportunities

1

1

1

1

1

Reflective - thinks and asks questions, evaluates own performances, provides reasons for choices/opinions.

1

1

1

1

1

Attendance

Days Present

37

44

46

49

176

Days Absent

0

0

0

1

1

Days Tardy

0

0

0

0

0

Special Area Classes

Art

Initiates projects and works independently

B

B

B

B

B

Uses tools and materials appropriately

B

B

B

B

B

Music

Responsible - respects others, follows directions

B

B

B

B

B

Phsyical Education

Demonstrates physical skills

B

AB

AB

B

B

Code Explanation:

3 = Meets grade-level standard and can apply key concepts independently. Demonstrates processes and skills. 2 = Approaching the grade-level standard, requires some support to demonstrate key concepts, processes, and skills. 3 = Progressing toward grade-level standard with on-going and intensive support or modifications. A= Consistently exhibits behaviors, models for others. G= Exhibits the behaviors listed. S= Requires Support

Standards-based Grading for Middle School

The primary principles of standards-based grading and reporting are similar at middle school in that the grade is directly related to the content standards. Reported letter grades (e.g., A, B, C, D, F) are based on weighted classroom assignments and summative classroom tests. Classroom assignments generally are rated using a rubric with a 1 – 5 scale, while classroom tests typically are reported in terms of the percent of correct responses. Of course, retakes of assignments, along with learning labs and peer-based tutoring assistance, are generally available and can contribute to revised scores. The combination of the information from the two sources (classroom assignments and classroom tests) results in a percentage-based score. Grades can be based on where the percentage falls within a range of percentages assigned to a grade. The same reporting process should be followed for students with significant disabilities and ensure the reference to the content standard is clear, with the percentage based on the performance expectations for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Summary

Grades for all students should be meaningful and informative for teachers, students, and parents. They should accomplish the purposes for which grading is intended, ensuring that the report is accurate, meaningful, consistent, and supportive of future learning (O’Connor, 2009). Standards-based grading is an effective grading practice for all students, including those with the most significant cognitive disabilities, because of the clear linkage to the standard.

References

  • Guskey, T. R., & Bailey, J. M. (1998). Developing grading and reporting systems for student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

  • Jung, L. A. (2009). The challenges of grading and reporting in special education: An inclusive grading model. In T. r. Guskey (Ed.), Practical solutions to serious problems in standards-based grading (pp. 27–40). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

  • Jung, L. A., & Guskey, T. R. (2004). Standards-Based Grading and Reporting; a Model for Special Education. Teaching Exceptional Children, 40, 48–53.

  • O’Connor, K. (2009). How to grade for learning K-12. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

  • Thurlow, M. L. (2002). Positive educational results for all students: The promise of standards-based reform. Remedial and Special Education, 23, 195–202.

  • Tomlinson, C., & McTighe, J. (n.d.). Integrating differentiated instruction and understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: ASC.

TIPS Series: Tip #12, August 2020

All rights reserved. Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:

  • Kearns, J. F., Taub, D., & Thurlow, M. (2020). Standards-based grading and report cards in inclusive elementary and middle schools​ (TIPS Series: Tip #12). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, TIES Center.

TIES Center is the national technical assistance center on inclusive practices and policies. Its purpose is to create sustainable changes in kindergarten-grade 8 school and district educational systems so that students with significant cognitive disabilities can fully engage in the same instructional and non-instructional activities as their general education peers, while being instructed in a way that meets individual learning needs. TIES Center is led by the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, and includes the following additional collaborating partners: Arizona Department of Education, CAST, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of North Carolina – Charlotte, and University of North Carolina – Greensboro.

TIES Center is supported through a Cooperative Agreement (#H326Y170004) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Project Officer: Susan Weigert

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