Standards-based grading lacks in real-world preparation

We have all had that bad morning when we woke up late, forgot to study and just wanted to sleep through the next test. Your test, however, is being graded on proficiency, and anything above an 80 percent will yield the same grade as an A. Short-term, the proficient or non-proficient test will boost your grade, quickly making you forget the events of the day.

This may lead to higher grades that are easier to attain, a positive for both teachers and students. But in the long run, standards-based grading, also known as proficiency grading, is detrimental to preparing students for the real world.

According to the FCPS Standards-Based Grading handbook, standards-based grading “measures a student’s progress to how he or she is performing on expected standards.” Problems arise because students strive for the highest standard that exists. If a grade of proficiency (usually above 80 percent) becomes the highest bar, students will only be trained to meet the standard, not strive for excellence.

Unfortunately, reality is not as forgiving. In many cases, a proficient product will protect one’s current status in the workplace, but will not lead to promotion. Furthermore, if the company or service comes across a person who excels above the standard, that person will be far more valuable.

Standards-based grading does not reward a student for earning As, because it levels the playing field by merging any grade above an 80 percent to proficient. The traditional A–F grading scale measures proficiency through the standard that a C is equal to “meeting expectations,” while an A translates to “above expectations” and an F means a student’s work does not meet expectations. This is a clear indication of whether a child is proficient in a subject. Because there is a reward for a grade above 80 percent, there is an incentive to learn beyond just meeting expectations.

The entire point of going to school is to learn and be prepared for facing higher expectations. When the system does not prepare students for the workplace, whatever employment one may seek, it is ruined.