The True Focus of Education

Standards Based Grading (SBG) was implemented this year in middle schools across the Jordan School District. The effects are astounding and, if they continue, Copper Hills students could see SBG in just a few years.


Hailey Winn, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Standards-Based Grading (SBG), or Standards Referenced Grading, was implemented this year in middle schools across the entire Jordan District. Kim Searle, the Principal at Sunset Ridge Middle in West Jordan, has been a leader in the development and implementation of SBG. 


”What we’re looking for is a demonstration of knowledge…” Searle says, “The better that you know something, the more you’re able to show that you know it. That’s what helps us determine what level of proficiency you’re at. So, if you can take the standard and show you’re proficient at that, you’ll receive a level 3. If you can take the standard we’ve learned and you can do something new or different with the concept…you receive a 4.” 


While many, including Principal Searle, believe that this grading system is a more accurate measure of knowledge, SBG is also expected to lower anxiety, reduce the number of F’s, and eventually be used at Copper Hills. 


The staggering rise in anxiety found in students has been a major concern among educators. Because of the structure, SBG is expected to lower anxiety in students. “Now they (students) just have to demonstrate that they know the standard and can use it. So it’s not about ‘I have to have an A, which means I have to complete 12 projects and I can only miss one question on each test.” 


The structure of SBG reduces the pressure that is regularly placed on students because they are only expected to demonstrate clear standards. They will know what’s expected of them as they go into the test and if they’ve done the practice before the test, know the results of that test aren’t finite. 


“What if you take a test and fail it the first time? Do you get another chance? You do with SBG because it’s not about that test. It’s about your ability to demonstrate your knowledge. [You can]  demonstrate skills and knowledge multiple times [if they prove they’ve worked towards the skill],” said Principal Searle. SBG students are given every opportunity to prove that they know that standard. It’s not about the grade anymore, it’s about the proficiency-based off the rubric.


This change to proficiency-based grading also makes it harder for students to receive an F. Instead of a grading scale where 60% represents failure, SBG offers percentages that act in a student’s favor. Principal Searle explained, “we’ve had the fewest number of ninth-grade students [at Sunset Ridge] earn F’s than in the history of our schools’ existence…and no significant change in A’s, B’s, and C’s…so it’s hard to see that it could be a disadvantage.” 


If SBG is more accurately assessing students’ knowledge than grades are more accurate. When grades are based on knowledge instead of multiple assignments, they are more accurate reflections of knowledge. 


“The true focus of education isn’t a letter grade, it’s about the acquisition of knowledge and skills. That’s what learning is really about,” said Principal Searle. She truly believes that SBG benefits students, teachers, and administrators. 


If that’s truly the case, it shouldn’t be long before SBG shows up at Copper Hills High School. “It’s slowly starting to move to the high schools,” Principal Searle explained, “Some teachers are already using it.” If the current system isn’t working, there’s hope for a new system that will.