Grading Core Beliefs

Core Belief 1: Grades must communicate what students know and are able to do. 

Core Belief 2: Grades are based on clearly established criteria determined by content teams.                  

Core Belief 3: Academic achievement is reported separately from behaviors. 

Core Belief 4: Grades are equitable.

Core Belief 1: Grades must communicate what students know and are able to do

Grades must be deliberately connected to learning to provide valuable feedback regarding students’ academic strengths and weaknesses; if not, they are counterproductive. Meaningful grade components must be rooted in essential learning and separate from nonacademic factors to ensure that we are assessing true learning. Grades are a communication tool rather than a collection of points. Success criteria clearly state what teachers expect students to know and do. 

Core Belief 2: Grades are based on clearly established criteria determined by content teams

Within each Professional Learning Community, teachers are expected to identify priority standards from their content area and deconstruct them to produce student-friendly learning targets and success criteria. Students should know and be able to demonstrate proficiency of each standard by the end of each grading period. Specific criteria for understanding or performance is provided to students prior to assessments. Proficiency scales include evaluative criteria, quality definitions for those criteria at levels of achievement, and a scoring strategy that teachers and students use to evaluate their performance or understanding. 

Core Belief 3: Academic achievement is reported separately from behaviors

Why separate behaviors from academic grades? If we incorporate behavior, attendance, and effort into the grade, we no longer consider grades accurate indicators of mastery of standards. The grade should reflect what the student knows and is able to do (Wormeli, 2006). 

Measuring behavior does not reflect what the student knows and is able to do academically. We can provide anecdotal evidence of behavioral performance, such as the amount of time and resources students spend on a task; however, we do not have a commonly accepted, legally justifiable, non-subjective method for measuring how hard or sincerely someone is working. The inclusion of positive behaviors can artificially inflate grades while the inclusion of negative behaviors can decrease academic motivation. 

While curriculum guides suggest a standard pacing for instruction, penalizing a student for requiring more time, support, or resources to master a standard is contrary to differentiation and best practice in teaching and learning. Please note, there may be standards where participation or quality of work may be assessed. This is appropriate only if it is reflected within the actual standard/learning target being assessed. 

Core Belief 4: Grades are equitable

Teachers work in conjunction with their Professional Learning Community (PLC) to understand the priority standards, proficiency scales, and assessments. They ensure they have identified the priority standards and what the learning targets are that support them. A learning target is a day-to-day instructional goal that builds toward a final learning outcome. Upfront, the teachers understand which collaboratively designed assessments will be used to assess learning. 

The teacher provides the students with the proficiency scales, the learning targets for each unit/priority standard, and specific success criteria that are aligned to them. Daily learning targets are posted clearly in the classroom so that students understand the goal they are working toward. The teacher then teaches relevant content, skills, and concepts related to the learning target(s), drawing from a variety of instructional strategies and frequently checking for understanding with formative assessment tools. 

Students are then responsible for providing evidence of learning. The teacher gathers a full body of evidence for individual students to gain a summative assessment of their proficiency. 

Teachers regularly share student work with their PLC teammates and ask them to score the work against the proficiency scale, so they can continue to calibrate their scoring. The teacher then scores their own students’ assessments and offers specific feedback to students so that they know the next steps to take to demonstrate their learning further as needed. Teachers follow data analysis protocol to make instructional adjustments to better serve students in their learning. 

Teachers continue to teach, adjusting their methods, differentiating as needed, allowing students to offer more evidence on various targets as they continue to learn. Some students continue to relearn and show evidence of new understanding based upon teacher feedback. With standards-based grading, the teacher and the student have entered into a partnership in the learning. As a result of coaching from their teachers, students learn to keep track of their progress on learning. Students must understand their role and responsibility for their learning in this student-centered classroom. 

Grading Practices

  1. A consistent 4-point proficiency scale is used. 

  2. Proficiency is based on a body of evidence. 

  3. Proficiency is organized and reported by learning targets.

  4. Students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency, which may include reassessment.

Grading Practice 1: A consistent 4-point proficiency scale is used

To help clarify this we will use the example of riding a skateboard. In this example, our priority standard is: landing a kickflip from a skateboard independently. The proficiency scale in relation to this standard might be (general description as it relates to academic content in parenthesis):

0 - Insufficient Evidence

Level 1 - Beginning

Level 2 - Nearing

Level 3 - Proficient

Level 4 - Advanced

Student did not provide enough evidence of learning. (Student must be reengaged in the learning process.) 

Student is emerging in skill and knowledge. With help, the student can achieve partial success with similar processes and vocabulary related to the priority standards.

Student has built foundational knowledge and vocabulary that is a prerequisite to demonstrating understanding of the priority standard. 

Student has mastered the skills, vocabulary and understanding to meet the expectations of the priority standard. 

Student applies knowledge and skills that go beyond what was taught. 

Proficiency scale for landing a kickflip independently

Grading Practice 2: Proficiency is based on a body of evidence

A Body of Evidence is defined as a collection of artifacts that measure student learning. No Evidence is reserved for cases where there is no evidence at all for a learning target, such as when a student stops coming to school or does not submit appropriate evidence of learning for a target. 

Assessments that could be used to determine students’ achievement of learning targets include but are not limited to the following: 

  • - Projects 

  • - Formative assessments 

  • - Developed tasks 

  • - Performances 

  • - Presentations 

  • - Summative Assessments 

All scores assigned to student work should be defensible and credible through a body of evidence, and more weight will be given to more recent scores. The body of evidence collected will then be converted to a final letter grade (Grades 7-12) using a common conversion scale. 


When a student transfers from outside the district, we will accomplish the following: 

  • Honor the work of students transferring into our classrooms. 

  • Provide grades for targets that have been taught and assessed in the classroom. 

  • Communicate grades that are fair to the students, that accurately represent learning, and that maintain the integrity of grading practices. 

Grading Practice 3: Proficiency is organized and reported by learning target

Learning Targets are developed based on the Priority Standards determined by classroom teachers throughout SFPS via ongoing collaboration and professional development. These learning targets will be communicated to students for each lesson. Assignments will focus on a series of assessment attempts (measurements) used to determine the proficiency level of each learning target. 

Extra Credit: In standards-based grading, extra credit does not exist. Extra credit distorts a grade. If students want to show they have improved in their demonstration of understanding, they are provided opportunities to do so within the parameters of set deadlines. Additional points/credit will not be given simply for putting in more time or work because semester grades reflect learning rather than a gathering of points. 

Role of Semester Finals: At the secondary level, every course will have a meaningful learning opportunity during the final exam window. Students are required to attend on the day of their final exams. Finals will be utilized to determine a holistic performance of select priority standards. Performance on the final is another means of determining mastery of standards. 

Communication with parents/guardians: If a student is currently failing or has not submitted appropriate evidence of learning, the teacher will contact the parents.

Grading Practice 4: Students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency, which may include reassessment

When appropriate, teachers will allow students the opportunity to redo, refine, or reassess to demonstrate proficiency and show retention of the learning target. To be afforded this opportunity, students must show new evidence of learning through a relearning experience. Each department/ Professional Learning Community (PLC) will follow a common, consistent reassessment policy that will be clearly explained in each course syllabus. Teachers will clearly communicate reassessment deadlines. 

Test score sheet with answers, grade A+ and pencil, close up

FAST Grading

Santa Fe Public Schools commits to all stakeholders to provide fair, accurate, specific, and timely information regarding student progress toward common essential standards as well as feedback for next steps and growth areas. Grades communicate what students know and are able to do. 

Fair: The same work by the same student should receive the same grade, even if the teacher is different. 

Accurate: Grades are based solely on achievement, which means other factors like behavior and attendance are not used to calculate a grade. However, each student will receive feedback in Powerschool on work habits and life-long learning skills.

Specific: Grading policies are clear so that students know how they will be assessed and how their grade will be determined. 

Timely: Feedback to students is timely so that students can apply that feedback right away and improve their performance on assessments.

Adapted from Elements of Grading: A Guide to Effective Practice (2010) Dr. Douglas Reeves