District plans to implement standard based grading


Devon Lee, Sports Editor

As a part of The Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Promise, the district aims to fully implement standards-based grading (SBG) into Gunn’s education by the fall of 2022.

The PAUSD Promise is a document created by the Board of Education to outline the future of the district. “This guiding document is designed to clearly, concisely and coherently outline our critical priority areas, provide space to explore our aspirations and determine metrics to monitor our progress,” according to The PAUSD Promise website.

Discussions about SBG began in a three-day profession- al learning and event centered around assessment called PA-YOU!-SD in June of last year. According to Principal Kathleen Laurence, the plan is still in its infancy. “We’re working on our backward planning from fall of 2022 in each department and professional learning community,” Laurence said. “There will be some overarching kind of way we do it, with nuances for different subject areas, certainly, but we aren’t there yet. We haven’t designed it.”

SBG is a system of education that focuses on assessing a student’s ability to demonstrate learning. One of its main goals is to allow students to be aware of what they have learned and what they need to work on. This principle is reflected in its grading scale.
Every assignment is graded on a one to four point scale; the scores are then used to determine the grade for a bucket score. Bucket scores are calculated from the scores that appear most often and most recently in that category. The overall grade is also calculated in the same manner—based on the bucket scores.

Since curriculum becomes increasingly difficult as the year progresses, assignments toward the end of the year are weighted heavier. “[Assignments] at the end are always weighted more than those at the beginning because the things that are meeting the standard by the end of the semester are much more difficult than the things that meet the standard at the beginning of the semester,” said Sci- ence Department Instructional Lead Laurie Pennington.

One drawback of the current system is that overall grades do not always accurately represent a student’s un- derstanding of the material. Since grades are calculated in broad categories, there is a degree of ambiguity. “If you are a student who maybe doesn’t do their homework but aces all their tasks, you might earn a B,” Pennington said. “If you are a student who does all your homework and doesn’t do as well on the test, you might also earn a B. Have we measured the same things? No.”
Another key principle of SBG is that students have the ability to show their understanding throughout the course of the semester. One drawback of the current education system is that it doesn’t allow for students to demonstrate learning after they have been tested. “The thing that should be the variable is the time, not the learning,” Lau- rence said. “And in the traditional system, the learning is the variable and the time is set.” Under the new SBG plan, students will be able to remediate assignments.

Currently, SBG has been incorporated into all lower lane, first year chemistry classes at Gunn. As one of the first courses to implement SBG into their curriculum Pennington believes that SBG will have success. “I was reading about the great things that could come from it and because I really personally care about student learning, it’s been something that I’ve really tried to learn and work
toward,” she said. “I think that yes it’s [SBG] possible and yes, I think it can work in every single class.”

The overarching purpose of SBG is to help students understand what they’re learning and how to do so in an effective manner at their own pace, with the goal of pre- paring them for the future. “By the time students get to college, they’re going to know how they learn, what they need to do, where they need to buckle down and where they can let go a little bit,” Pennington said. “All those different things, I think, can come from standards-based work. So, the ultimate goal is learning better learning and where students can learn on their own, and learning for learnings sake, not for the grade sake.”