Target Based Grading FAQs

What is target-based grading?

Target-based grading communicates how students are performing on a set of clearly defined learning targets that are derived from Nebraska College and Career Ready Standards and /or national standards. The purpose of target-based grading is to identify what students know or are able to do in relation to the pre-established learning targets as opposed to simply averaging grades/scores over the course of a grading period which can mask what a student has learned or not learned in a specific subject.

How does target-based grading differ from traditional grading? 

Compared to traditional grading, target-based grading more accurately represents learning progress towards the proficiency of standards. This allows for specific feedback to the student and teacher. Target-based grading provides specific information on areas where a student may need support or areas where they are strong. Simply put, a percentage (traditional grading) grade does not represent an accurate picture of where a student is in his/her learning and proficiency on a learning target. Traditional grading combines all learning activities together into one score without offering specifics.

Why use a target-based grading system?

Just as physicians research new methods and tools to more accurately measure a patient’s health, educators use research to develop accurate measurement of student learning. Averaging a student’s scores and then reporting them all together does not provide an accurate picture of achievement, help educators diagnose potential learning problems, or communicate clearly with families. For example, a mark of a “C” or “satisfactory” in Math does not tell us where the child’s strengths and weaknesses lie among the various concepts of math. 

In a target-based system, students are working toward meeting established targets (standards). If a student is not on track to meet a standard, support can be put in place and students can be given additional opportunities to show their understanding. 

Here are some examples.


Notice the complexity differences on the learning targets and proficiency scales between 1st and 4th grade. It is expected that content expectations become more complicated at each grade level. So does the proficiency scale. Classroom learning experiences and activities are used to help students learn and show their level of understanding on that specific target. The learning targets and proficiency scales are intentionally designed and developed to measure against a 3,  proficiency by the end of the school year. It is typical to see a student with an updated score on each target throughout the year because they are still learning and growing throughout the school year. Teachers will determine the students grade/mark on the target based upon the evidence provided to teachers through learning experiences and activities. 

I do not understand the difference between 1, 2, 3, 4, and  A, B, C, D, F on my child’s grade report.

In traditional grading, a letter grade represents an average of all of the student's work in a given subject area. In a target-based grade, a number represents the level of proficiency the student has achieved in a specific grade level learning target area of the course. 

Here is a simplified conversion chart.  A more comprehensive chart can be found on the Senior High guidance page.

It is important to note that a 4 score is quite rare- even at the end of the year. Fours indicate that a student has gone beyond the grade level skills required for that subject. It is and should be typical for your students' scores to improve throughout the year as the grade level standards measure what is expected of them at the END of that grade level. Students are progressing and growing to meet end of year expectations. 

Why do I see a combination or no courses on my child’s report card with a target-based grade?

It takes a considerable amount of time to properly align learning experiences and assessments into a course in order to accurately use target-based reporting. Here is a target-based grading implementation timeline that indicates the courses and grade levels that will be used and reported in a target-based grading system. It will take a few years before all courses are measured by target-based grading. Most work has begun at the elementary level and will be gradually implemented into upper grades.

I heard that homework isn’t counted in target-based grading. I also heard that students are allowed to retake assessments/tests.  Doesn’t that mean a student can just blow off their homework and/or tests to manipulate the system?

No, homework will be included as part of the formative portion of a student’s final grade calculation, as indicated below: 

  • K-2 Formative 0% Summative 100%
  • 3-4 Formative 10% Summative 90%
  • 5-12 Formative 15% Summative 85%

Departments and grade levels will be given discretion to determine what types of assignments and activities (homework, class activities, labs, quizzes) will be included within the category of formative work and how much weight will be assigned to each, as long as they follow the percentages listed above.  

It is important to note that some schools that use target-based grading (also known as, standards-based grading) do not include homework assignments in the grade. Calculating homework can hinder a student’s final grade by calculating practice work where the student is just learning a new concept. In most cases, a student is able to reassess/test if they have not shown proficiency on a topic. However, there are limitations to a student’s opportunity to reassess. Author Megan Welsh tells us that, “knowing that poor performance can be corrected and lead to improved grades, encourages students to stick with difficult topics and teaches them how to learn” (Welsch, via Guskey & Brookhart, What We Know about Grading, 2019).

How will the district know if target-based grading is a success?

Success is achieved when every student and teacher can identify a student’s level of proficiency on learning targets. This means that a student can express what they know and what they still need to learn to attain proficiency. The students' report will be a clear and precise indicator of content proficiency and not masked by extra credit, behavior or other non-academic factors. 

For more details and specifics, read on to more links provided under the Teaching and Learning tab.