Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of Educational Administration and Foundations: Educational Administration
Dianne Gardner Renn
Report card grades have long been a part of the system of communication used in our schools to signify student achievement. Letter grades have been with us for centuries, but it was not until recently that educators began recognizing there may be a better way to communicate what a student knows and can do for parents and other schools. While standards-based grades have been common at the elementary level, middle and high schools have been slow to put them to use.
This phenomenological case study was of a seventh and eighth grade school in northeast Illinois in 2013 in the third year of a transition to a standards-based report card. The research question in this study was: "How did the middle level educators describe their experiences in moving from a traditional grading system to a standards-based approach to grading?" Staff (n=14) were interviewed, meetings observed, and documents reviewed to provide an overview of what happened during the transition to a report card that showed what students knew and could do.
Wilderness Middle School (a pseudonym) utilizes a six-page computerized report card to communicate students' academic abilities. The report card has maintained an achievement grade that continues to be used for eligibility and honor roll recognition. This hybrid approach reportedly has diminished the importance conveyed by the standards. While the staff has become more intimate with the Common Core State Standards, the new report card has not translated into changes in behavior about grades by parents or students.
Changing to a standards-based approach to grading is a difficult adaptive change that should not be underestimated. Without a strong purpose message, transitioning to a standards-based approach to grading may prove difficult. Having a clear message from the onset may help in the planning and execution of changing the approach to a middle school report card.
Szymczak, Jeffrey Scott, "Transitioning to a Standards-Based Grading Model at the Middle Level: a Case Study" (2015). Theses and Dissertations. 314.