Target Based Grading FAQs

Why change everything, it’s been this way for 100+ years and it worked okay when I was in school?

The past system of giving a grade to every assignment is not the best learning approach for our students. This process gives grades for every assignment in the classroom and does not guarantee a focus on the end result of proficiency of the learning standards.

Consider this example: If your end goal (the standard) is to bake a blue ribbon cake at the county fair, would you want the judge to see the very first cake you ever baked from a new recipe? Would you want that first cake to be given a grade based on that initial performance? Or, would you prefer to have an opportunity to practice, and perfect, your application of the new recipe (homework and classroom teaching) before presenting your final product to the judge (the test)? (Your learning targets along the way might be to master your ingredient measurements, perfect your baking time, and master the art of cake decorating.)

Or this example: If the end goal (the standard) is to win a basketball game, would you ask your coach and team to compete without time to practice and perfect their skills? Instead, we give them time to practice and develop their abilities (comparable to homework and classroom teaching), before we enter a competition where a score is being kept and an outcome is on the line (the test). (Learning targets along the way might be to develop a good jump shot, become effective at the free throw line, and learn a zone defense.)

This philosophy of “keep working until you are proficient” is very applicable in the real world. We want to equip students with lifelong learning skills and employability skills for their future. We believe that Standards Based Grading will promote student success in these areas. Students must take responsibility for their proficiency and become partners in their education with teachers, with both parties developing a mindset of working toward a successful goal of proficiency of the standards for every student at Norfolk Public Schools. The old system of a 100% grading scale does not reflect this mindset and it is statistically inaccurate. The old system measures what the student completed and turned in versus accurately measuring what the student knows and evidence of what the student can do at the end of the learning period.

Are other schools doing this? Does the NPS Board of Education and the Nebraska Department of Education know you are doing this?

Yes, other school districts in the state of Nebraska, and across the country, are adopting target based instruction and standards based grading. The Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education approved this strategic planning goal (March 2018) and they are excited for this enhancement to promote student success. The Nebraska Department of Education supports target based instruction and standards based grading as an option for school districts and works closely with our school district to support implementation.

Are you saying that students will earn the equivalent of an A, C, or F in each class? I’m worried about my B (or D) level students and how this might negatively impact them?

The intention is to move away from the traditional grading system of the past and instead focus on proficiency of the skills. The ultimate goal is that grades reflect student knowledge. Multiple options will be made available to students to become proficient. If needed, assessments will be able to be retaken and opportunities will be given for the student to receive more instruction and additional practice in order to improve the assessment proficiency. The ultimate goal is to ensure that all students are proficient in the learning target.

When will this start?

The original goal was to have full K-8 implementation by 08/2021 and a phase-in implementation at the Senior High. Full official implementation of K-8 will not be ready Fall of 2021 as originally stated in the Strategic Action Plan. K-6 will pilot Reading and Math Fall 2020, and Social Studies & Science will pilot in 2021. Grades 7-8 will pilot by course readiness when aligned priority standards, learning targets and proficiency scales are in place. Grades 9-12 will implement target based grading practices when courses are ready. Parents may see pieces of target based grading within the reports of Infinite Campus, but full conversion will not take place until all courses are ready. We are monitoring the classrooms that have implemented the practices of target based grading. Things we are seeing in the monitoring:

  • Students are taking ownership of learning and making efforts to improve their knowledge.
  • Specific conversations are taking place between teachers and students about learning.
  • Teachers are identifying the specific challenges students are having with their learning.
  • Teachers are utilizing better interventions with students who need help.
  • Teachers are seeing the importance of having complete information in Infinite Campus.
  • The district is providing teachers with professional development to ensure the process is completed authentically.

There are multiple variables of SH implementation including grade scale conversion and course readiness. Conversion scales and a new timeline will be published 2nd semester of 2019-20. October meetings include Marzano Institute guidance and November meetings include Infinite Campus readiness. Input from both the Marzano Research Laboratory and Infinite Campus is beneficial because both have been utilized by other schools who have made the transition to standards-based grading and reporting.

What about scholarship applications and college applications that ask for a GPA? How will this impact those?

Although we are not aware of every application in the United States, a very large majority use ACT and SAT scores for their academic measurement. We believe that a move to TBG will help students in their quest for high ACT/SAT scores because NPS proficiency expectations will be consistent in the skills evaluated on those tests. As we continue to fine-tune the TBG process, before district-wide rollout, we will continue to look at this question. The mission of Norfolk Public Schools is to prepare all students to pursue their goals for the future. This includes successful college and scholarship applications. Currently we use a conversion scale that translates student’s percent GPA to a 4.0 GPA. Similarly, there will be a conversion scale to translate from the proficiency scale to a 4.0 GPA to satisfy scholarship applications.

What will my student’s transcript look like?

Transcripts universally hold the same information. We see very little changes with this. Currently class rank and GPA exist on the transcript, this will remain true after the transition. Until the complete study of conversion is finished, no official calculations will change in Infinite Campus that will impact transcripts.

I’ve heard you are eliminating the Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) program as a result of the implementation of TBG. Is that true?

This is not true. There will always be an opportunity for gifted students to pursue higher level coursework at NPS. As we continue to develop the definition of “proficient,” we will continue to explore the role of Honors and AP courses.

I’ve heard that TBG will eliminate the Valedictorian and Salutatorian honor at graduation. Is that true? What about class rank and graduation with honors, are those being eliminated?

This is not true. We have two years to perfect the reporting details (transcript) of TBG and we know that it will make some changes to the format of the transcript, but we have no intention of eliminating any of these opportunities that honor our graduates with exceptional academic performance at graduation.

What implications could this have for students that have language barriers, special education needs, or students that join our school district mid-term?

As with all students at Norfolk Public Schools, the goal of target based instruction is to ensure all students are proficient in the district learning targets, students identified as either a student with special needs through a 504 or IEP and/or ELL are provided the necessary modifications and accommodations on an individual basis. Students may work toward modified targets but still reach proficiency based on those modifications. NPS will follow the same transition plan with students entering in the middle of the year by reviewing school/student information data.