Breaking the Curve: How Standards-Based Grading is Transforming Education

Home ยป Breaking the Curve: How Standards-Based Grading is Transforming Education

About the Guest(s): Thomas R. Guskey, PhD, is Professor Emeritus in the College of Education, University of Kentucky. A University of Chicago graduate and former middle school teacher, he served as an administrator in Chicago Public Schools and was the first Director of the Center for the Improvement of Teaching and Learning, a national educational research center. He is author/editor of twenty-eight books and over three hundred published articles and book chapters. His most recent books include Engaging Parents and Families in Grading Reforms, Implementing Mastery Learning, and Instructional Feedback.

Episode Summary: In this insightful episode, Dr. Thomas Guskey delves into the complexities of traditional grading systems and explores the potential of standards-based grading to revolutionize how learners are evaluated. The episode kicks off with Dr. Guskey discussing the gaps between grading knowledge and practices and how the reliance on traditional models has impacted education.

The heart of the conversation centers on how existing grading practices, like grading on a curve, do not accurately reflect student learning. Dr. Guskey clarifies this with historical context and emphasizes the need for grading to be based on what students actually learn. He also critiques the reliance on percentage-based grading systems, urging for a shift towards standards-based evaluations that highlight the actual competencies of students across various subjects.

Key points discussed include the prerequisites for implementing standards-based grading, the meaning and applications of grade adaptations for exceptional learners, and the necessity for transparency in learning goals. Dr. Guskey also underscores the importance of separating academic achievement from behaviors like class participation and homework completion to provide a clearer picture of student learning.


Key Takeaways:

  • Traditional grading systems are often misaligned with the body of research available on effective grading practices.
  • Innovative solutions like standards-based grading can offer transparency and clarity around student competencies.
  • Moving away from grading on a curve can reduce competitiveness while emphasizing true learning outcomes.
  • Clearly defined learning goals and transparent practices can diminish test anxiety and guessing games in assessments.
  • Accommodations and modifications in grading should be tailored to the individual needs of exceptional learners without stigma or value judgments.




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