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Standards Referenced Grading makes way into elementary

March 8, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

The staff and faculty at North Tama Elementary are strategically implementing a new form of grading known as Standards Referenced Grading (SRG) into the building, with kindergarten through second grade already using the system.

"It has been a trend in the state and many districts around us having moved to it," Elementary Principal Josh Youel said. "I went to a conference years back to listen to a nationally-known expert with a book out. I bought that book and and we used that book as a study. We got together as a group to discuss what we learned and we're doing this the right way with a multi-year implementation."

SRG replaces the traditional grading system of letters to represent understanding of a subject and instead uses values of 1-5 to show understanding, with a 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. A list of "standards" are listed for each subject graded out by this numerical system.

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"With a standard report card, a kid gets a C and should be average," Youel said. "However, that doesn't give you any information at what they're good at. A SRG report card will list the standards, such as addition. You can they can add two-digit numbers and get a five. Then subtraction, they are scored a two. You know they need help them. You average those together for a three, which is about a C. That's what I like about SRG and it can show parents a lot."

Across the state, schools are using a system called Standards Based Grading instead of traditional grading method, which Youel explains is mainly the same thing.

"These systems are very similar, but different in one way: with SBG, if you have a third grader who is a whiz in math, that student moves up to fourth grade math," Youel said. "With SRG, that student can get enrichment and practice, help their peers versus moving them. They progress together."

An attribute both methods share is the focus on achieving these standards, rather than simply moving along if a student is not ready. If a student does poorly on a test, they are allowed to retake the test only after more teaching, practice. Then a different test will be administered.

Youel and the staff understand they will be explaining the difference between SBG-a more commonly known version-for years to come, but the teachers wanted to go with the appropriate name from the start. To help ease the elementary into this new grading system, a five-year plan began in the 2016-17 school year with the previously-mentioned book study. The standards upon which these grades are calculated were decided upon and report cards were created for SRG. North Tama formed "scouting parties" to look at what programs across the state has been doing with SRG, including Solon in 2017-18

"Solon is the leader on SBG/SRG in K-12 and we went to learn from the best," Youel said. "We came back to develop presentations and educate the board on this grading system."

This school year, the administration and faculty began the process of educating the public about SRG, including a video published on the school district's Facebook page. The staff is also establishing standards for grades 3-6 as they prepare to pilot the third graders in 2019-20. Finally in 2020-21, the fourth through sixth graders will be switched to this system.

There are currently no plans for implementing SRG in the Jr/Sr High School. Andrew Meister, Secondary Principal, has been interested in the idea and is currently studying SRG through the book that started the elementary's journey to this new system.

"I would anticipate the high school may move to SRG, but we talked about elementary being implemented and then slowly move this up with them through seventh grade, eighth grade," Youel said. "This way, the kids and parents have seen this for years."

Youel's retirement this summer and Susan Olson assuming the position will not affect the schedule of implementing SRG due to already investing several years into the process already.

"We're excited about Standards Referenced Grading," Youel said. "When you can communicate and show what students can/cannot do, that's good for education."

To learn more about SRG, check out the video on the North Tama CSD Facebook page or contact Josh Youel at or call (319) 478-2265 ext. 110.



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