Top 10 standards-based grading articles

UPDATE: For articles published in 2016 or later, see this list.

Every once in a while, I receive an email from an educator or parent interested in standards-based grading (SBG) and he/she asks for an introductory reading list.  I typically attach several of my favorites and then link to an ongoing list of articles curated during the past several years for further reading. Earlier this week, a professional acquaintance suggested I share a top ten standards-based grading articles list. Challenge accepted!

Without further ado, here is my top ten standards-based grading articles¹.

  1. Scriffiny, P.L. (2008). Seven reasons for standards-based grading. Educational Leadership, 66(2), 70-74 [Available online]
    Patricia Scriffiny is a math teacher who mixes in the “why” of standards-based grading with a few of her own classroom examples.  Any school or department considering the shift to SBG could use this article as a conversation starter.
  2. Peters, R. & Buckmiller, T. (2014). Our grades were broken: Overcoming barriers and challenges to implementing standards-based grading. Journal of Educational Leadership in Action, 2(2). [Available online]
    Two Drake University researchers interviewed a number of building and district administrators in order to describe the ups and downs of implementing SBG systemwide.  Barriers in the process included: student information and grading systems, parents/community members, the tradition of grading and fear of the unknown, and the implementation dip.  I’ll let you read the rest!
  3. Winger, T. (2005). Grading to communicate. Educational Leadership, 63(3), 61-65. [Available online]
    In the summer workshops I’ve facilitated, Winger’s article is almost always a hit.  Tony is a practicing educator who mixes in thought provoking questions with his own classroom reality.  Questions such as “do grades interfere with learning?” and “do grades provide accurate feedback?” are bound to stir up some heated conversations amongst educators at all grade levels.
  4. Erickson, J.A. (2011). A call to action: Transforming grading practices. Principal Leadership, 12(1), 42-46. [pdf]
    Jeffrey Erickson is a practicing school administrator who writes about his experiences changing grading practices in a suburban high school. While his ideas don’t quite meet my personal idea of standards-based grading (e.g. homework still counts towards a small percentage of the final grade), I believe his ideas are on the right track and worth sharing with others.
  5. Clymer, J.B., & Wiliam, D. (2006). Improving the way we grade science. Educational Leadership, 64(4), 36-42. [Available online]
    Looking for a practical view into a standards-based grading classroom?  This is it!  Eighth grade science teacher Jacqueline Clymer shares a sample grade book and a summary of student reaction to standards-based grading in the classroom.  The obvious target audience is science teachers who want to “see” SBG in action.
  6. Jung, L., & Guskey, T.R. (2011). Fair & accurate grading for exceptional learners. Principal Leadership, 12(3), 32-37. [pdf]
    Hold on…what about students with special needs?!  University of Kentucky researchers LeeAnn Jung and Thomas Guskey team up to communicate, “standards-based grading is the most accurate method to assess students’ abilities.”  Students with IEPs and English language learners may need modifications or accommodations and this article describes how to fairly do so in a standards-based grading setting.
  7. Iamarino, D. (2014). The benefits of standards-based grading: A critical evaluation of modern grading practices. Current Issues in Education, 17(2). [Available online]
    In this peer-reviewed article, the author examines the literature to evaluate various grading practices before concluding “modern grading practices are rife
    with complexity and contradiction. They are remnants of archaic conventions, and hybrids of newer methodologies not yet tried by time and application” (p. 9).  I wouldn’t recommend this piece as a first read, but rather for educators with a more philosophical or theoretical bend.
  8. Wormeli, R. (2011). Redos and retakes done right. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 22-26.
    Reassessments are one of the most hotly contested aspects of standards-based grading from the perspective of teachers and parents.  Wormeli’s article describes compelling reasons reassessments make sense while providing teachers a list of practical strategies to try out in their classrooms.
  9. Guskey, T.R. (2013). The case against percentage grades. Educational Leadership, 71(1), 68-72.
    This article alone is worth the price of purchasing the September 2013 issue of Educational Leadership.  Dr. Guskey briefly describes the history of grading and goes on to differentiate percentage grades from percentage correct.  Not sure why a 4 or 5 point scale is more accurate and appropriate when compared to a 100 point scale?  This is your go-to source.
  10. Vatterott, C. (2011). Making homework central to learning. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 60-64.
    Any meaningful conversation about grading practices involves the purpose of homework.  Dr. Cathy Vatterott is often coined “The Homework Lady.” This article provides schools a framework to consider in order to unify educators around the purpose and emphasis of homework within standards-based grading.

What articles would you add to this list?

¹Articles must describe the why and/or how of effective grading practices, and priority was given to articles available publicly online.

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12 thoughts on “Top 10 standards-based grading articles

  1. Pingback: Top 10 standards-based grading articles | Stand...

  2. A great list, Matt! Thanks for sharing! My students will now have more resources to explore!

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  4. Pingback: Matt Townsley | Top 10 Standards-Based Grading Books

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  6. Happy to see that my 2005 article is still making the rounds! Thanks Matt!
    Tony Winger

  7. Thanks for this great list of resources. I am in the early days of my investigation of standards-based grading in a high achieving district that has seen a significant drop in its graduation rates and is, therefore, seeking out system-wide transformations that might reverse this trend. Implementing standards based grading in our comprehensive high schools is the first proposed solution from our central administrators to reverse that trend of historically low graduation rates in our district.

    Question — in Kate Sugarman’s 2015 Reach ILA Action Research Paper entitled “Standards-Based Grading: Theory and Practice,” the author seems to contradict an assumption Matt Townsley and others have made, namely that “traditional grading practices have never been seriously researched” for their effectiveness. On page 8 of the aforementioned study, however, Sugarman cites at least three studies, one that dates back to as early as 1958 on the effects of traditional grading practices. Since it is clear, at least from this source, that traditional grading practices HAVE been researched, where else might I find an intellectually honest review of the literature which examines traditional grading practices and compares them to standards- based practices? In my cursory glance (and it is ONLY that thus far) the list Mr. Townsley provides seems more anecdotal and geared toward touting the positive effects of SBG, rather than directing me to any serious peer-reviewed resources which methodically and comprehensively analyze elements which could articulate “success” or “effectiveness” of either TBG or SBG. Do such studies which deeply unpack the “effectiveness” of either TBG or SBG exist? If so, can someone direct me to such studies from the past ten years or so? Thanks in advance for any help you can give me!

  8. I should have acknowledged in my comments above that the Imarino article IS a peer-reviewed study. Again, in my CURSORY and quite EARLY analysis of Mr. Townsley’s list of sources, however, none of the rest of the articles seem to be serious research, but rather testaments or anecdotal proclamations. So I would like direction on more methodologically sound peer-reviewed articles such as the Imarino article above. Thanks!

    • Hi Darren,
      Thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment. As a person early in the investigation of standards-based grading, I would like to refer you to my “all things SBG” page One of the resources there (and also linked within the original “top 10” post) is a page with a TON of more articles, many of which are peer-reviewed as you’ve requested. Furthermore, you may be interested in the following peer-reviewed article describing many of the issues researchers have identified with grading over the past 100 years.

      Brookhart, S.M., Guskey, T.R., Bowers, A.J., McMillan, J.H., Smith, J.K., Smith, L.F., Stevens, M.T., & Welsh, M.E. (2016). A century of grading research: Meaning and value in the most common educational measure. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 803-848.

      Does any of this help at all?

  9. I would add this one:
    Erickson, Jeffrey A. “How Grading Reform Changed our School.” Ed Leadership. Nov. 2011

    • Thank you, Laura!
      I am planning to update this list soon and will consider re-reading this article among the others which have been written since this blog post was originally published.

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