• Frequently Asked Questions

    Many of the questions below were asked at our Standards Referenced Grading parent information sessions. If you have additional questions, please send them to info@usd259.net


    Fundamental Questions
    Behavior and Work Ethics
    Consistency in Grading
    Evaluation of the System
    Fine Arts and PE Grading
    Grade Conversion (GPA, College transcripts)
    Progress Reports
    Retaining Students
    Student Impact/Students with special needs
    Teacher Training


    Fundamental Questions

    What is Standards-Referenced Grading?

    In education, the term standards-referenced refers to instructional approaches that are aligned to learning standards —i.e., written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. In other words, standards-referenced refers to the use of learning standards to guide what gets taught and assessed in schools.

    What are standards?

    Standards are statements about what students should know & be able to do at each grade level. The Kansas State Department of Education posts adopted standards at the following site: 


    How is standards-referenced grading different than traditional grading?

    Traditionally, many elements are combined to determine your child’s grade – test scores, quizzes, completed homework, classroom participation, coming to school on time, extra credit – then, the average of the quarter or semester’s work equates into a percentage for a grade.

    Standards-referenced grading separates those elements. Parents will be able to see specifically if their child needs help with an academic concept, or if he or she can’t remember to turn in homework. Standards-referenced grading measures a student’s mastery of grade-level standards by prioritizing the most recent, consistent level of performance.
    What are the advantages of SRG?

    Improved communication and additional feedback for parents, students and teachers - parents and students will see areas of academic strength and weaknesses in the grade book rather than seeing a test score or homework assignment and wondering what the next steps might be. Teachers will know which standards they need to re-teach. Students will know which standards they need additional learning opportunities and/or practice.

    How is this different compared to the way students were previously assessed in elementary school?

    Students will continue to have assessments as they have in the past. However, assessments now focus on certain standards/targets and students know where they are in their progression of learning the target.

    Is this new grading system going into effect in middle/high school?

    Yes. This system was implemented at the middle school level in the 2020-2021 school year and will be implemented at the high school level in the 2022-2032 school year.

    How will other districts understand the grades?

    When a student transfers, their records are sent upon request from the new school. Each student’s progress report will include a section explaining how to determine what an SRG number score means for the student’s letter grade at the new school. 

    Who else is using this system?

    A few of the districts using this system are Topeka, Andover, Salina, Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, NE; Winneconne Community School District, Wisconsin; Poinette Schools, Wisconsin; Owatonna Middle School, MN.


    Behavior and Work Ethics 

    What are the behavior/work habit targets?

    The targets can be found on both the Elementary Standards and Secondary Grading Practices links under the Standards Referenced Grading section of this site: www.usd259.org/grading

    Why was work ethics removed from grading standards?

    We believe behavior/work habits are so important, we are separating them from the academic score. This ensures our academic scores truly reflect what students know and can do academically. This also provides a way for specific, valuable feedback to be given for behavior/work habits. At the secondary level, these types of standards/targets are called Employability Skills. 


    Consistency in Grading

    Will all teachers grade the same?

    Teachers will use both obtrusive (written) and unobtrusive (verbal, informal, etc.) assessments.  The expectations for meeting mastery of the standards will be the same; however, the way teachers assess may differ.

    How do we make sure all students are meeting their grade level if each student has different goals by the end of the year?

    All students in a grade level have grade level standards. The goal for all students is to meet these standards by the end of the year.

    Will homework be graded?

    In this system, homework is not part of the academic grade.  However, it can be scored using the behavior/work habit targets.

    How many data points will teachers use to determine scores?

    Teachers will collect data that becomes part of a body of evidence for evaluating student progress and growth. The amount of data collected/needed will depend on the student and standard.

    Will all teachers grade the same? Subjective or objective, based on how they feel the child is doing vs. how another teacher feels the child is doing?

    All assessment should be aligned to a standard and a proficiency scale. This will provide a common language when determining student mastery of standards. Professional judgement will still be needed when determining where a student is in their progression of learning.


    Evaluation of the System 

    How will the new system be evaluated to assess if it is achieving the desired outcomes?

    Assessment of this system will include analyzing state achievement results and feedback from stakeholders.

    Will there be any follow up sessions to share how things are going or possibly how the new grading system may be adjusted, if needed?

    We will be sharing information such as this with the school board throughout the implementation.

    How do you find/know the average level for each subject?

    In this system, the focus is on the progression of learning according to proficiency scales and mastering standards. It is not necessary to focus on averaging scores.

    How can I help my child perform at home to get him more prepared to perform at a 4.0 level?

    Content will be taught at the foundational level (2.0) and mastery level (3.0). Anything a student does that is above and beyond the standard might be considered at the 4.0 level. Focusing first on mastery of the standards is key.

    Is there research to support the use of standards-referenced grading?

    Yes. Please visit www.usd259.org/grading to view documents.

    Are the learning standards available online?  If so, where?  For all grades?

    Yes. Please visit www.usd259.org/grading to view documents listing the standards for each grade level.


    Fine Arts and PE Grading 

    Will Art & Music be part of this?

    Yes.  All music, physical education, and art courses will have targets, scales & students will be able to set goals in each class based on the proficiency scales.


    Grade Conversion

    Will students have GPA’s in MS & HS?

    Yes.  Student scores on standards will be shown on progress reports. All scores on standards in a content area will then be converted to a letter grade. Letter grades in all subject areas can then be used to determine a Grade Point Average (GPA).

    How will I know how my child is doing without letter grades?  What does a 2 mean?  Is a 2 a C?

    It will be important to look at the performance indicators on the progress report.  We will not convert to letter grades in elementary. 

    How is this going to be different from A-F scale?

    Traditionally, students received an overall letter grade indicating their performance in class. This included both academic and behavior/work habit performance. Now, students will receive feedback regarding their performance toward mastering standards. The academic performance will be graded separately than the behavior/work habit performance.

    How will SRG be distinguished from letter grades as there are 5 numbers on SRG scales and 5 traditional letter grades?  Five numbers on an SRG scale and 5 traditional letter grades, so how do I not equate a “4” to an “A” or a “1” to a “D”?

    The district has adopted a Secondary Conversion to Letter Grades chart that will help answer this question. Please visit www.usd259.org/grading to view the chart.

    What is “mastery”? 

    Mastery is the term used when students have met the grade level standard/target.

    How are high school transcripts going to look for universities?

    Transcripts will have all necessary information needed for students applying to colleges/universities.



    Progress Reports

    How will I know prior to the end of the year report if my child is falling behind?

    Teachers will continue to monitor students that may be struggling or need enrichment and communicate specific needs with parents. Progress reports are available quarterly. Reports can be viewed in ParentVue. Contact your student's school for assistance.




    How is one classroom teacher supposed to equitably keep track of each student?

    Keeping track of student progress is not new.  It has always been an expectation we have.  With scales, it will be a streamlined process.

    Is .5 a part of the grading?

    Yes.  We want to celebrate progress.  Having a .5 between 1, 2 helps us do that.


    When my child comes home talking about Dreambox or other computer programs they use…how can we be educated about or exposed to their curriculum?

    Please contact your child’s teacher for more information. You can also contact one of the district curriculum specialists for more information as well. 


    Retaining Students

    Will students be retained if they have not mastered a certain % of content in their current grade?

    No. We are standards-referenced, not standards-based. In our system, students continue to progress to the next grade level. Research has shown that retention is not an effective practice. Our time and energy is better spent working to support students throughout the school year providing quality core instruction and enrichment/intervention courses.


    Student Impact

    How will this affect students with special needs?

    Students continue to receive the support they have had previously.  Students will continue to work on their identified goals.  All students will use proficiency scales. Visit FAQs for students with IEP's and 504 Plans for more information. 

    Is this less stressful for students?

    Yes. In this system, students know what they need to learn and have ownership of their learning when they set goals and track their own progress.

    How are you advising the students about the change?

    Students are learning from their teachers. At the secondary level, some students have been engaged in the change process through focus groups and feedback sessions.


    Teacher Training

    Have teachers been trained on this change? How have they been trained?

    Yes.  We started this process in 2016 and have been adding layers of information and training to different groups. Training will continue throughout the year.

    My child’s teacher stated she is withholding grades on paper until she learns how to grade them?

    Professional learning to support this shift will continue to be provided. Please keep in touch with the teacher.


    Can we have administrative staff do the leg work of adjusting curriculum so teachers aren’t individually recreating the wheel?

    Curriculum specialists and teams of teachers have aligned identified targets/standards to teach and assess with the current curriculum.