Calculating a Final Grade using Standards Based Grading

This post as been changed from the date I originally posted it (5/11). There are minor changes in the body.  The major changes to move the conversation forward are in blue (5/14)

I have been piloting Standards Based Grading (SBG) for the last quarter of the school year. I am 5 weeks into the quarter.  I just sent home progress reports to parents using a SBG progress achievement report that I created (I am still waiting to get feedback from parents).  After 5 weeks I have been able to do a lot of thinking and reflecting on the process.  I have not blogged about this as much as I hope, but I now feel that I have enough for a substantial post. I have been wrestling with how to determine final grades for the class, hence the nature and title of this post.

The Current Plan

Before piloting the program and informing parents we came up with a grade conversion chart.  This makes the conversion easy for parents to understand, but I fear it still leaves too much focus on a number instead of learning.  Here is what we are using

Standard Traditional
Excels 4 100
  3.5 95
Proficiency 3 90
  2.5 85
Approaching Proficiency 2 80
  1.5 75
Well Below Proficiency 1 70
  .5 65
No Evidence/Incomplete

Through Canvas we do use the Learning Mastery Gradebook, but I am not satisfied with its presentation and user-ability.  With this current conversion I feel that I might as well give the corresponding traditional grade instead of the standards based grade for each standard (this is how it is report in PowerSchool).   I do not think that this was a major error as I am the first person, to my knowledge, in my school to try SBG.  This conversion is easy for parents to understand and is slowing pushing everyone, students and parents, toward learning and understanding instead of a grade.  We have taken a step in the right direction and need to receive any push back from parents after they were informed on the pilot.  The progress report that I set home help to push both parents and students to focus on learning rather than a grade.  The student responses overall for positive (more to come) and I am still waiting to hear from parents.  This is what the progress report that I sent home to parents looked like.  You can see each standard as filling up a bar to the level 3 (proficiency) and when students are excelling in areas.


Problems with the Current System

  1. A student can be proficient in all areas (they can do all of the work on their own), yet the receive a 90, or a B+ (we are on a 7 pt scale).  I am still unsure about how I feel about this.  Part of me thinks that if a student is proficient in all areas that they should earn an A in the class.  Now it might not equate to the highest A, but an A nonetheless.
  2. A student can pass the course without being proficient in the majority of the concepts.  It still comes down to a number grade.  The lowest grade (traditional) a student can earn is a 60.  A students passes with 70, which means if a student is well below proficiency on all standards that they scrap by and pass.  Is this really benefiting the students to pass them along when they have clearly not mastered any of the concepts.
  3. The current conversion is very hard to fail and very hard to make an A.  I do feel that there needs to be some adjustment or change.

Possible Solutions

  1. A quick and fairly easy solution would be to change the conversion.  Say from a 10 point scale to a 20 point scale.  However, this means that  student who is proficient in the concept will earn an 80 or a C for that standard.  This hear I think is an immediate problem. * As of 5/14 this is no longer a solution! This is from the feedback, comments, and conversations started on the original blog post.
  2. We also considered using a 7 point scale to match with GPA.  This has some potential, but again I feel that this method would pass students along.
  3. Use a conversion that does not involve even increments. For example
    • 4 = 100 
    • 3 = 93 (lowest A),
    • 2 = 75 (lowest C)
    • 1 = 61 (minimum low)
  4. Base the letter grade from the number or percentage of 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s. This is what I am leaning towards, but I am looking for a lot of feedback and advice on this as well.  My school reports grades out of 100 and we need to differentiate between an A = 100 and A = 93. Here are some current ideas.
    • A = 93+ All 3s, each 4 is 1 additional pt up to 100
    • A =93 – All 3s, no 2s
    • B = 90 – 90% 3s/4s no more than 10% 2s, no 1s
    • B = 85 – 80% 3s/4s, no more than 20% 2s, no 1s
    • C = 80 – 70% 3s/4s, no more than 10% 1s
    • D = 75 – 60% 3s/4s, no more than 20% 1s
    • D = 70 – 50% 3s/4s, no more than 25% 1s

After hearing from many people and having conversations about calculating a final grade using SBG I have decided that option 4 is the best method for my classroom and my pilot.  This option needs fine tuning and to help lead another conversation is a table of different ways to accomplish the idea behind option 4.  Please understand that there is no correct or definitive way and that the purpose of this table is to encourage more conversation.  I am adding my original idea (which will change soon) as well as recommendations from Ken O’Connor and Megan Moran (with their permission).  Again these ideas are designed to start a conversation.  Ken’s recommendation is specific for what I have listed in my room.

Original Idea Ken O’Connor Meghan Moran
A + 93+ All 3s, each 4 addition 1 pt 1 additional point up to 100 for each 4 in addition to requirement for A Ratio of 3s/4s, no 2s
A (93) All 3s, no 2s at least 1/2 standards 4, rest 3, no 2’s Ratio of 3s/4s, no 2s


90% 3s/4s, no 1s mostly 3’s, mix of 3’s and 4’s, no 2’s 80% 3s/4s no 1s
B (85) 80% 3s/4s, no 1s mostly 3’s, no more than 20% 2’s, no 1’s


70% 3s/4s, no more than 10% 1s at least 50% 3 or higher, rest 2’s, no 1’s 70% 3s/4s, no 1s


60% 3s/4s, no more tan 20% 1s at least 75% 2 or higher 60% 3s/4s, no more than 20% 1s


50% 3s/4s, no more than 25% 1s at least 50% 2 or higher

As of know I am leaning toward idea 4, but I know it needs some work and fine tuning.  These are all just thoughts and my goal is to start a conversation.  I plan to continually update this post in installments to show the progress.  Please comment or email me:


23 thoughts on “Calculating a Final Grade using Standards Based Grading

    1. Hi Brian,

      Canvas is not there yet with representing mastery grading. I tried multiple times to get it started through Commons, but it never received enough votes. I even talked with someone who worked at Canvas at it did not make much headway. What you are seeing is the result of an Excel file with Macros that I created to change a .csv file from Canvas into the bar graph and then later a pie chart for each student. I hope Canvas will one day move in this direction. I think it would give the company a huge advantage over other LMS systems.


  1. Thank you so much for all your posts! My school uses SBG, but I as I was not around to implement it, I have to admit I’ve gone along with it, without giving it the thought and attention you’ve laid out here. I’m absolutely going to use your experience and thoughts laid out here to revisit my policy and be sure I have given it serious thought before going into the fall.


    1. I’m so glad to hear that this post was helpful to you. There is a great community of educators that helped with this through their comments. I do plan to update this post again with my final method after I talk with my administration. I also plan to write a post about the proficiency levels for each standard.


  2. I am liking your grade conversion scale. I think it is a good place to start from (and definitely keep the conversation going!). Do you have to give grades for quarters, trimesters, semesters or just a final grade? If it is anything other than just a final grade, do you think you might give them the option of mastering a first quarter skill in, say, the third or fourth quarter? If so, do you think you might change grades? Or how do you think you would handle a situation like that?


    1. Sarah,
      My school currently gives grades every quarter, but each course lasts a semester. I would like to allow students to continue to work on standards from the prior quarter so long everything is completed before the end of the course. We are allowed to submit a change of grade form to our registrar if we change a grade from a previous quarter. Thanks for the questions and helping me to think through this process. My hope that this post and the conversations will help me to create a more solidified action plan for implementing SBG in my classroom.


  3. Kristin:

    Sorry, had to copy and paste the English info below — I could only find it in an e-mail. In answer to your question, yes, I think the scale could be more rigorous.

    Calculating the 9 Weeks Grade
    • Students will be graded on an EXCD (4), MEET (3), NEED, (2), IE (0) scale. These scores will be averaged together to create a 9 weeks letter grade.
    • Grading Exceptions and Provisions:
     If a student receives a NEED (2) on a standard, their 9 weeks grade grade is capped at a C. The reasoning: Students need to re-do their work to the minimum MEET standard to qualify for a B or above.
    • At the end of the 9 weeks, a letter grade is calculated based on the average of the integers for each standard (4,3,2,0) for eligibility purposes.
    • The end of course letter grade will be the average of all four 9 weeks grades.
    • Example:
    • Quarter 1: 75% C
    • Quarter 2: 80% B
    • Quarter 3: 83% B
    • Quarter 4: 75% C
     Grade for the course: 78% C +
    Final Note: These changes will only affect Quarter 3 and Quarter 4. The letter grades you received from the first semester will remain as is and will be factored into the final course grade.
    Why are you making changes?
    These changes are meant to correct some issues that resulted from the new grading system started at the beginning of the school year in AP Language and Composition:
    • Students falling into bad habits such as waiting to turn in or re-do work until the end of the 9 weeks
    • Students not turning in their best work the first time
    • Students who received mostly EXCDs will receive a higher score than a student who has many MEETs and EXCDs combined. Example: A student with 9 EXCDs and 1 MEET will have a better grade than a student who has 6 EXCDs and 4 MEETs.


    1. Thanks Wes. After more thought and hearing from everyone else I too agree that students need to have all 3 or higher for a B. I think this really solidifies the goal of SBG and that is about student learning and understanding.


  4. I am also trying to figure out a way to implement SBG in my classroom as my district is heading towards Standards Based Learning. I’m very excited to see your scale, as this is the first time I have seen something concrete as to how to move to SBG. Especially as a math teacher myself, I find it difficult to always get ideas from non-math teachers since while there are similarities in all classes, there are unique aspects to math. So a couple of questions for now:
    Do you intend to have a line in your graph (or your gradebook) for every topic you plan to cover for the year?
    Are some standards weighted more than others?
    And my biggest roadblock right now, how do you show mastery? Do they need to earn a 3 on just one assessment? Do they need to continually earn that 3? If so, how many times? Can a student receive a proficient score on one assessment, and then drop to a 2 or even a 1 on the next?

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey. I look forward to sharing experiences and ideas.


    1. Sarah,
      I’m glad to hear that this has been helpful for you. I am really learning as I go and still have many questions. I do not have a lot of experience with SBG or even traditional grades for that matter as it is my first year teaching.

      I currently use Canvas to record all of my grades, but will each week in my traditional gradebook for each standard so that I can record all of the reassessments as well.

      Currently all standards have the same weight. Ryan also brought this up and I am processing through this now. I know as teachers we see that importance of the different standards, but this is hard to communicate to parents (especially math).
      To show mastery I currently give students a formal summative assessment. I record the level in Canvas and then students and I discuss the reassessments if necessary. Throughout class I provide formative assessments and feedback. Just last week I gave my Stat students a quiz and “graded” it, but I did not record this as it was a formative assessment. I too am still working through all of this. I also give spiral reviews/questions as well. As suggested by Rik Rowe (@WHSRowe) students who consistent show mastery will move to level 4 on spiral reviews. I also give students a level 4 problem that requires them to explain or create using the standard.
      As for students dropping: I have not had this happen with any students yet, but for now I am keeping the highest score. For next year I will move toward the most recent or the average of the most recent scores.
      I will continue to blog through this and I hope it will be helpful for both of us to work through these ideas together


  5. Hi Kristin,
    I too am a HS Math teacher using SBG. Before offering an perspective on your solution I wanted to address some other thoughts. For my classes, I wanted to stay clear away from attaching a conversion from the 4-0 scale to a traditional grade or the purpose of SBG is just taking a 100 point scale and changing it to a 7 point scale. I think you agree with that. I chose to use a 4 point scale and not to introduce intermediate marks like a 3.5 or 2.5 I was less decisive in my scoring. You have descriptors for 4 but nothing between. Imagine needed to define a 2.5 with another descriptor. I find it difficult. Most rubrics do not have 7 descriptors. Once you attach a percent which has a traditional letter associated with it, you lose the intention of SBG. In other words why would I look at your “3” if I know that it means a 90 which means a B+? What we want as teachers is to communicate that the student has a proficient understanding of that particular concept.

    My interpretation of a student getting all 3s is that they are prepared to go on to the next course with no deficiencies. That does not mean that they have an A (in my opinion). If I only need all 3s to get an A, they why would i ever try for 4s? I strongly believe that an A is reserved for a student that has excelled on some(many or all) concepts while showing proficency in all the others. A student earning a B has no more that 20% deficiencies on the concepts and a C student has not more than 30% deficiencies. B or C students will also not show any 1s. A student earning a D (a grade that I wish did not exist – its kinda a move along because you pass but I know you’re not ready grade – not to mention in college a D is not meeting prerequisite to more onto the subsequent course), but anyways – a D student may not have more than 40% deficiencies which can only include 20% 1s. This is how I define traditional grades in my class. To support this I must also define my scale to match. Getting a 2 is not okay – you must relearn and demonstrate your understanding.

    In addition I also must provide opportunities for students to practice their learning and assessments or other opportunities to demonstrate their understanding. If a written assessment is given, the questions must be accessible to all students and provide opportunity to Excel and reach a 4. My goal is to have all students reach proficiency and make attempt at (and as often as possible) reaching a 4.

    I applaud you for working through this pilot of SBG and I can tell that you are learning and reflecting often. For me this has been the most rewarding changing in my classroom in 12 years. I am totally up for more conversation and further reflection if you’d like.



    1. Meghan,
      Thank you so much for your response!! I completely agree with what you are saying. I do not want to use .5 in my grading for next year. Since SBG is so new to my school we wanted a way to slowly ease people into it, especially since we made the change part way through the year. I am not gathering and processing through as much information as possible to create a better plan for next year. I want to use a 4 point scale and leave it at that. I think it will be much easier for both myself and students.

      It is very encouraging to hear many educators revere the A and reserve an A for the truly high achieving students. I know that many parents and students think that they deserve straight As because they are very good at jumping through hoops and following the rules. I love how you relate a D to college and earning a prerequisite for a course. This will be very helpful in explaining and justifying the rules.

      I have been working through ways to help students reassess and truly learn the material. This is very different for man of my students, but it has been very helpful. I also plan to teach my students about having a growth mindset at the beginning of the school year.

      Thank you for your comment. I am excited about continuing to learn from you!


  6. In our school, we use JumpRope gradebook and SBG, so we had to make the same decision: how to turn a 4-3-2-1 into an A+ – through – F?

    In the end, we had to decide on a system that calculates an overall grade for a course that is anywhere from 1 to 4 in terms of an integer grade. The overall integer grade for a course is an average of all standard grades. How did we decide how to convert the number to a letter?

    We decided that a “3” represented proficient. When I asked teachers what letter grade meant “proficient” to them, there were a lot of people who answered “B” and a lot who answered “C.” In the end, our scale ( defined a 3 as a “B-.”

    From that point, we made a mathematically-equivalent scale to turn our integers into letter grades. (2.0 = passing)

    My take: We did the best we could, and we’ll probably keep this conversion for next year. However, one English teacher who used a descriptor system (“meets” for proficient and “exceeds” for above-proficient) last year in a pilot project used a formula like the one you suggest in #4. There was no mathematical conversion, just rules like yours. The positive effect was that the students motivated to get A’s (this was an AP class) couldn’t have ANY 2’s and had to have a majority of 3’s to get an “A.” So, I see the benefits of that system — kids worked to get an “A.”

    I would say modify #4 so that students can’t get a B if they have a 2. Just my opinion.


    1. Wes,
      Thank you for your response, experience, and thoughts. You have really helped me to think about what it means to “pass” a class and the level of understanding that a student needs to have. Do you happen to know the rules that your English teacher used and and feedback they received. I currently teach our math tech course “low-level” (even though I beg to differ) and hope this will promote student learning and understanding. I just want to be clear that you general opinion would be to make the scale more challenging than it is?


    1. Ryan,

      I did not think of that. My first response would be that the student would have a B in the class. This is exactly why I wanted to post this and hear from others. The reason, now, that I say a B is because a 1 means that the student is well below proficiency and does not have even a general understanding of the concept.

      I think the big challenge is determining these different levels in a way that can be easily explained to students and parents and make sense. Do you have any specific ways to adjust this scale?


      1. Kristin,

        I’ll start by saying that I have not adopted SBG, so take my comments lightly. A few in my department have been using SBG for a few years and we talk through grading issues together.

        I would have a hard time telling a student they earned a B when they demonstrated proficiency in 95% of the content standards. That is, depending on the specific content standards. A fallback of SBG, IMO, is that each standard carries the same weight. I do not believe that every standard in Alg 1, for example, is equally important to the student’s math education and use of math in their lives.

        A key component of RTI consists of departments identifying Essential Standards (also called Power Standards) and these standards are allotted more time and depth. If a student demonstrated 1s in 5% of these standards, then a B is more plausible to me. But if the 1s are within standards that are not deemed Essential/Power Standards, while also demonstrating proficiency in 95% of the total standards, I’d have to say that student earned an A.

        I love the conversation!


      2. Ryan,
        You bring up a very good point about the importance and weight of the different standards. I think one of the first things that we all, as educators, need to determine is a definition for an A and a B. Many educators reserve and A for exceptional work and understanding. Many students and parents want an A to be for completing all of the requirements, but not going beyond. I do agree that one standard should not hold a student back, but if they student understands all of the other standards they can with hard work accomplish the last standard. I am trying all of this and in my first year of teaching so I do not have a lot of experience to pull from, but I feel that if a students is lacking in one standard then they are most likely lacking in another since math builds on previous standards. I am also really enjoying the conversation from all of the great educators that are helping. I have learned and reflected so much on SBG in the last 48 hours!


      3. You are light years ahead of most newbies!

        Weighting the grade book helps with the compliance grade grubbers. I use 80% Assessments, 20% Assignments in my grade book. Students and parents understand that in order to earn an A, you must be able to demonstrate understanding on the assessments.


  7. I like both 3 and 4, but whichever you choose, you need to be transparent and give notice. I’m assuming you allow redos, which you might get a lot of once students understand how their final grade will be calculated. Unfortunately, until the mindset is totally changed, the final grade will still be more important to them instead of their level of proficiency. When transferring standards based grading to letter grades, there is no correct way. I’m assuming that you are figuring a way to convey the level of proficiency on individual standards to parents and students? I like your chart, will you be able to add that to their report cards? You are brave to be the first person to try this. It’s a long, hard road but so worth it!


    1. April,
      Thank you for your feedback! Since this is only the 1st quarter of the pilot (and last quarter) of the year I am looking to how to improve for next year. My goal is to be very transparent with students and parents about SBG which is why I am looking for advice now so that I can properly inform parents at the beginning of next school year.
      I also plan to teach my students about having a growth mindset at the beginning of next year as well to help with the transition to SBG. So far I have not received much push back, if any from students (but many are still chasing the grade.
      I use Canvas LMS to record all SBG grades and create the progress report. I am leaning towards #4 as it will place the chart as more important that calculating a number grade.


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