The Legislative Assembly Blog is designed to assist Washington State PTA members in assessing the issues submitted for addition to the Washington State PTA legislative platform. The blog provides the supporting documentation for each issue and legislative principle submitted by members and moved forward by the Legislative Committee and the Washington State PTA Board of Directors.

Delegates will be attending the Annual Legislative Assembly on October 18 and 19 to adjust Washington State PTA’s two-year platform, possibly adding to the list of supported issues and possibly amending the current supported issue of Access, Opportunity and Equity for Special Education. We will not be re-ranking the Top 5 – they remain the top priorities until next year’s legislative assembly.

Washington State PTA advocates for MANY issues – legislatively and with outreach and education. The platform is a list of timely legislative priorities that will drive PTA legislative advocacy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Standards-Based Grading

UPDATE: This proposal failed Oct. 20, 2012. It was not placed on the short-term platform for the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions.


The Washington State PTA shall encourage, support and/or  initiate  policies, practices, procedures and/or legislation in local school districts and statewide that develop, establish, and see implemented consistent standards-based grading and skills-mastery practices that focus on authentic measurement of actual student learning rather than compliance-based practices.

WSPTA will also encourage, support, and/or initiate potential flexibility and innovation in the school day or in-class scheduling practices to accommodate the time needed to meet the learning needs and styles of individual students to assure skills mastery. 

Further, WSPTA will support funding to accomplish these goals, whether for extended staffing for a modified school day, professional development for staff, or other funding needed to fully implement, monitor, and modify as necessary.

WSPTA board:  Neutral
  • Issue submitted by: Sharon Taubel, Sammamish High School PTSA 2.3.160

Submitter's statement in support: 

Washington is a standards-based state with specific learning requirements, yet we have great variation in grading practices. For many, a grade received does not necessarily reflect mastery of a subject. Compliance-based grading docks students for such things as tardiness, lack of participation, or homework for homework’s sake, rather than homework as skills practice tailored to a child’s individual need.

Some kids master how to “do school” and end up needing remedial classes in college because they “complied,” but didn’t actually learn what they needed. Other students may get stuck with a poor grade on their transcript for the wrong reasons; this can affect their ability to get into college or receive financial aid.

If we modify the way we grade we can help students focus on learning.  I have seen the impact on my child from classes that used standards-based grading.  She didn’t stress over assignments or tests because she knew she had multiple (usually three) chances to improve.  I didn’t have to hound her to do homework because she was engaged in her learning and understood the relevance of assignments.

Sometimes kids just need more time with concept or two. Standards-based grading helps students focus and take the initiative with their learning. The grades more accurately reflect mastery and establish consistency across schools and classrooms. They separate achievement from effort.

It is time to measure students in a manner that is fair and authentic, while doing more to support districts trying to make changes that empower our kids. Helping them adopt standards based grading puts the emphasis back on actual learning.

Con arguments

Evidence isn’t in yet that standards-based grading improves student outcomes.
At the high school level, standards-based grading can be difficult for kids and parents to understand; needs to be converted into a GPA for college admission

Context and timeliness 

The basic premise of standards-based grading is to help students better understand what they have mastered and what they need to work on. It helps educators adjust instruction to meet individual need. In theory it reinforces a stronger, more productive relationship between teacher, student and parent.

Exactly what it looks like in practice, however, can vary. Currently some teachers are using it, or some schools, or some districts. Guidelines for implementation would be helpful for student, teacher and family alike, especially in the context of ongoing reform work.

The state is transitioning to new standards for mathematics and English language arts and is reviewing its science standards. It is building a new accountability system and achievement index that focuses on student growth and setting measurable goals. And it is implementing new teacher and principal evaluations that promote professional growth and accountability.

A key component some struggle with in the new evaluation system is its use of student-growth measurements.  How do we assess or measure student success in all course offerings? Or for learners with special needs? Or “struggling” students? What data do we use and how do we know whether it accurately reflects what students have learned?

Many elementary school progress reports already evaluate kids as approaching, meeting, or exceeding standards. This type of report card helps parents better understand where a child is at and builds child self-awareness of strengths and challenge areas, thus fostering self-esteem.

WHAT IS STANDARDS-BASED GRADING? (Excerpt from FAQ posted by Whitman Middle School in Seattle)

In a standards-based system, teachers report what students know and are able to do relative to academic standards. The system includes:
  • The improvement of student achievement in all content areas,
  • The mastery of defined learning targets instead of the accumulation of points,
  • The reporting of student achievement toward meeting learning targets at a given time by reflecting on mounting evidence based on various forms of assessments,
  • A record-keeping system that provides teachers with information that allows them to adjust learning practices to meet the needs of students, and
  • A system that encourages student reflection and responsibility
What are the purposes of standards-based grading?
One purpose of standards-based grading is to align grading with the state academic standards as measured by consistent and accurate student achievement data and common criteria for grading. Another purpose is to accurately communicate achievement of learning targets to students, parents and educators. The influence of positive and consistent work habits on student learning is reported separately from the academics.

Why is it a PTA issue?

This speaks directly to helping students and their families effectively engage in learning, and to giving educators the support they need to make changes.
 It ties into WSPTA resolutions:
  • 18.17 Education Reform: Defining our Role
  • 18.18 High School Graduation, College Prep & Access
  • 18.24 Meaningful High School Diploma

Standards-based grading is an evolving issue, but implementation has been inconsistent. Legislation could direct resources into developing a blueprint or best-practice guide that districts could use as a basis, rather leaving it to each interested district to develop their own methodology.

Fiscal impact

Likely will need:
  • Funding and study to develop common assessments and grading criteria aligned to state learning standards (assessments are being developed as part of adoption of the Common Core State Standards)
  • Professional development
  • Ongoing evaluation and adjustment to truly evolve a world-class system.
Could involve:
Changes in school day to meet student needs



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