Standards Based Learning

Middle Schools within Poudre School District utilize a grading philosophy known as Standards Based Grading. 

Poudre School District offers all students a high quality standards-based education through curriculum that is aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards. Standards are high-level concepts of what a student is expected to know and demonstrate in each subject matter at each grade level. The curriculum is the method or means by which that standard is taught. Schools with specialized curriculum such as Core Knowledge, Expeditionary Learning and International Baccalaureate will have different grading and reporting procedures.

Over a two-year period, middle school leadership studied research-based best practices, attended national conferences related to quality teaching and learning and collaborated with various stakeholder groups as part of the transition from a junior high school system to a middle school system. After careful and thoughtful consideration, middle school principals decided to make the transition to a standards-based teaching, learning and reporting system as a means of supporting quality instruction and accurate reporting of student progress. The goal is to improve student achievement through a structured instructional program that is focused on what students know and understand.

A standards-based instructional system has three components:
1. Teaching: Teachers plan instruction in a continuous teaching and learning cycle for all student needs based on periodic assessment. Teachers differentiate and refine their teaching to support all student academic needs throughout the unit/lesson/year. Teachers make instructional adjustments based on student understanding of the content.

2. Assessment for Learning: Students are expected to show “mastery” of a specific Content Standard (ie. Demonstrating knowledge of American Folklore Literacy). All assignments and assessments are directly linked to specific content standards. Students also learn soft-skills (called Work-Habits) along with academic content.

3. Reporting: This system communicates what each student knows and is able to demonstrate in order to meet or exceed grade level content standards. While IB and Core Knowledge reporting may vary slightly, standards-based reporting contains the following components:

- Reports progress in academic achievement
- Is focused on achievement rather than how quickly a student learns
- Shows student progress and growth over time
- Reports separately the influence of positive work habits and behavior
- Uses a number scale to show student progress toward mastery of the standards
- Scale scores are converted to letter grades for quarterly report cards
- Grade Point Average (GPA) based Honor Roll will continue at all schools
- Letter grades for applicable courses will be included on high school transcripts

PSD Middle School Standards-Based Teaching, Learning & Reporting System
Sample Scale:

4 - Advnaced - Student demonstrates learning above and beyond the criteria of proficiency for the learning target

3 - Proficient) - Student demonstrates learning at the criteria for proficiency for the learning target

2 - Partially Proficient - Student demonstrates learning below the criteria for proficiency for the learning target

1 - In Progress - Student demonstrates learning well below the criteria of proficiency for the learning target

IE - Insufficient Evidence - Insufficient evidence to assess student proficiency

How did we get here?

Timeline for standards-based teaching, learning and reporting in PSD middle schools:
 2007-2008: Planning and study for transition from junior high to middle school. MS Principals agreed to transition to standards-based teaching, learning and reporting model. Several administrators and teachers visited schools implementing Standards-based Teaching, Learning and Reporting in Colorado (Douglas County). All teachers, administrators and counselors attended National Middle School Association Conferences.
 2008-2009: PSD invited Michael Rettig and Rick Wormeli, nationally recognized educators, to speak to all MS staff about research into assessment, grading practices and efficient systems for building quality master schedules. We also worked with Elliott Merenbloom, a noted middle school scheduling expert, and Jack Berkemeyer, former Assistant Director of the National Middle School Association, now called the Association of Middle Level Education.
 2009-2012: Four PSD middle schools (Webber, Wellington, Preston, Blevins) became early-implementers, transitioning to Standards Based Teaching, Learning and Reporting system. Polaris utilized Standards Based Teaching, Learning and Reporting within the Expeditionary Learning Curriculum and Framework.
 2012-2014: Boltz joined early implementers in utilizing Standards-based Teaching, Learning and Reporting system. Kinard, Lincoln, Lesher and CLPM began the transition based on specific needs of their curriculums (IB and Core Knowledge).
 2014-2015: Full implementation of Standards-based Teaching, Learning and Reporting system at all PSD middle schools.