Consistently engaging in creative standards-based grading methods is key to keeping students and teachers on board with adopting a new grading system. If implemented into learning on an ongoing basis, students can see where they are improving and excelling. When the comparisons to objective benchmarks cease, students can focus on their personal learning and growth and not how to only master a multiple choice examination. The goal of formative assessment and standards-based grading is to identify areas for improvement, not achieve “numbers” as a representation of learning.

Sample of Formative Assessment Methods

Below is an example of some common methods for gathering daily insights into a student’s level of proficiency in an individual standard. They are focused on providing the teacher with the ability to provide direct feedback to students or the class as a whole while never isolating one person in a situation with which they are not comfortable. The key to success for each of these methods is to clearly communicate to students the standards they are learning and the objectives of each task. With clear communication, teachers can see where instructional gaps are.

  • Written SummaryWritten Summaries: Instruct students to summarize a recently learned topic in one sentence, two sentences, and then a paragraph. The motivation is to have them pay attention to different levels of detailand engage in various depths of thinking, but still allowing you to see if they can extract the critical points of a topic. You will also be able
    to evaluate their grammar skills. If the subject is one of a more technical nature, instructing the students to answer one or two mathematics or chemistry problems followed by a sentence explaining the fundamental theory of that lesson is likely sufficient.

The key to success for each of these methods is to clearly communicate to students the standards they are learning and the objectives of each task.

  • Critical Reflection Statements: Have students write short comments or orally present their thinking on a new topic learned. Encourage them to highlight what information they learned that is new, what they found interesting or surprising about the topic and one way this new information applies to their daily lives. When a student finds a concept interesting or useful, it is likely to motivate them to use that learning in an application outside of the classroom.
  • Class Polls: Ask straight-forward questions about core concepts during a lesson. Collect responses via “heads down, hands up” so answers are not biased, or even electronically if you have systems in place to accommodate this. You will receive instant feedback on the level of proficiency the class has as a whole on a concept and whether or not it is safe to move on to the next topic. Also, students that are less likely to vocalize their knowledge in a class have an avenue to showcase their proficiency comfortably.
  • Entrance / Exit Tickets: Instruct students to submit questions about the previous day’s lesson or homework at the beginning of class. You can address these right away before starting the next lesson to ensure all students are on the same page, but also address any questions shy students might not want to ask in front of the class or directly to you. Having students submit a summary about the main idea of the day’s lesson at the end of class will also inform you of any instructional gaps individual students or larger groups of the class are experiencing.
  • Comprehension Demonstration Projects: There is a wide variety of projects you can have students complete to showcase their mastery of a particular concept. Projects can include students creating a poster/collage accompanied by a written or oral summary, presenting in-class on the topic, or doing a demonstration/live experiment if the subject and safety standards allow for it.

Key Questions for Consideration

Now that you are aware of what goes into a formative assessment and standards-based grading strategy, we hope you are eager to work with your students to enhance their learning even further! Before you jump right into a whole new assessment strategy, we do recommend reviewing the following questions to ensure your institution is ready to hit the ground running with all of the right resources in place.

Questions for formative assessment

  • Are all of the educators in my school empowered to engage in formative assessment?
  • Do the students at my school understand the basis of formative assessment?
  • Do we want to implement a mixed grading system or strictly maintain a formative assessment culture?
  • Does my school have the correct reporting infrastructure in place to support accurate formative assessment?
  • What obstacles are in our way to implement formative assessment?
  • Who is going to champion formative assessment in my school?
  • What professional development is required for my team?
  • What does success mean to us and our formative assessment strategy?
  • How can we leverage technology to assist our transition?

Questions standards-based grading

  • Do the students at my school understand the basis standards-based grading?
  • Do any teachers currently associate assessments directly to standards?
  • Do we want to implement a mixed standards-based and traditional grading system?
  • Does my school have the correct reporting infrastructure in place to support standards-based grading?
  • What obstacles are in our way for implementing a standards-based grading and how do we address them?
  • What professional development is required for my team?
  • How will we measure how successful our standards-based grading strategy is?
  • How can we leverage technology to assist our transition?

Implementation Resources

Once you have critically considered each of these questions, these resources might be helpful for you to truly tailor your new formative assessment strategy to your school or district:

Chalk offers a standards-based assessment solution that provides actionable insights about your student’s progress towards curriculum standards. Common Core standards and state-specific Curriculum Sets can be found in the solution on any subject you need so you can personalize each student’s learning. Chalk’s assessment solution works seamlessly with its instruction, curriculum, and analytics solutions to bring your formative assessment strategy to life.


Congratulations! You now have the basics of formative assessment and standards-based assessment under your belt.

Defining your learning goals and the associated assessment strategy is foundational to nurturing a student’s potential for success. Successfully developing and communicating this strategy to all key stakeholders will ensure everyone is working towards a common goal – encouraging lifelong learning in students.

During your shift from a traditional grading system to one with a formative and/or standards-based grading assessment focus, you should continue to emphasize to teachers and administrators they too are benefactors of the system. To be stewards of ongoing assessment and learning for students, engaging in regular and adequate professional development showcases how the faculty embodies formative assessment and its long-term benefits.

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