• Pawel Nazarewicz

Grading in 3D

(From JumpRope: We plan to make a very conscious effort this year in publishing more posts from our users - voices from the field, right? - and here is the first, from Pawel Nazarewicz, a teacher at Salem City Schools in Salem, VA. Pawel uses JumpRope. See also this site, of which Pawel is a part, for information about assessment for learning. Enjoy!)

As I started transitioning from traditional grading to standards-based grading this year, I realized that I did not have the appropriate record-keeping tools. Traditional grading software is not designed to handle standards-based assessments just like a painter’s toolbox leaves her ill-equipped for sculpture.


The traditional model grading model is predicated on topics which lead to instruction and activities. These are often graded (either via homework, classwork, or participation).

Figure 1: Instruction and Assessment in Traditional Classroom

At some point, there is a formal assessment (like a test or quiz) which also leads to a grade. Finally, all the grades are averaged. Extra credit, if earned, is added and the student’s final grade is determined by a ratio of (accumulated points)/(available points). There is little to no distinction as to where these points were earned (unless a teacher has specific weights). Often, the final grade does not discriminate between points earned on a 9-weeks test and points earned on a homework assignment.

A traditional gradebook is really easy to set up. A simple Excel file will do. Put the students in rows and the assignments in columns. It’s two-dimensional and being a math teacher, I’ll represent it with a typical Cartesian plane where one of the dimensions (x) represents the assignments and the other dimension (y) represents student names.

Figure 2: Traditional Gradebook

As you can see, grades tend to be the focus of this type of model. Students are often acutely aware of how many points away they are from their desired grade. For example, if a student is five points away from the next letter grade, he or she will ask what they can do to get five points, independent of where those points come from.


In contrast to the previous model, individual standards are the foundation of the SBL model. Teachers select which standards are important ahead of time and give students feedback where they stand on individual standards. Often, the grading is done on a 4 or 10 points scale instead of the traditional 100-point scale.

Here is a generic view of how grading in an SBL classroom looks like:

Figure 3: Instruction and Assessment in a SBL Classroom

  1. Selection of Standard 1 leads to Instruction & Activities.

  2. These lead to learning.

  3. Students are then assessed.

  4. A score (or grade) is given for the assessment. (This student scored a 2 on a 4-point scale)

  5. Students receive feedback which then …

  6. … leads to more learning.

  7. If needed, students are assessed again. (Now this student improved to a 3)

  8. Which leads to more feedback and further learning.

  9. Standard 2 is introduced and followed by Instruction & Activities.

  10. These lead to learning.

  11. Which is followed by an assessment.

  12. The assessment now measures both Standard 1 AND Standard 2.

  13. This leads to two scores which give students ... (The student now improved his understanding of Standard 1 to a 4 and scored a 3 on Standard 2).

  14. … feedback on how they are doing which leads to …

  15. … further learning.

While learning is present in both the traditional and standards-based model, the main difference is the focus of assessments. Grades, and the accumulation of points, are the focus of the traditional model. The assessments are for grading. Learning is the focus of the standards-based model. In the SBL model, grades are used as feedback to let students, teachers, and parents know where the student stands in relation to each standard.

As you can see, students have multiple opportunities to improve and demonstrate their understanding of individual standards. This adds a third dimension to a gradebook: Growth (or Progress).

Thus, an SBL gradebook will look something like this, with the x-axis representing standards (similar to before), the y-axis representing students (same as before), and the new z-axis representing progress or growth.

Figure 4: SBL Gradebook

This is where a traditional gradebook falls short. For example, if I wanted to document progress or growth using software like Excel, I would need to create a new sheet for every student. This would give me the requisite third dimension. Software like PowerSchool does not have an adequate solution for this sort of grading.

When I came to him with that problem at the beginning of the year, my principal recommended experimenting with JumpRope. Since then, JumpRope has allowed me to adroitly navigate the third dimension (growth and progress) and continues to give me insight into student (both individual and class-wide) growth among different standards.

While I still have a lot to learn about both SBL and getting the most out of JumpRope, I’m now sold on that overall approach to assessment and feel like I have the tools for the job.

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