Investigating the Potential Benefits of Standards-Based Grading Practices at Urban Secondary Schools in Southern Utah: A Qualitative Study
Letter grades are often inflated or lowered based on non-learning aspects, and students tend to focus on earning a particular grade rather than on mastering academic content and skills. The problem is that the letter grade method that has been used for many decades in education may not be the best way to determine or report student achievement. Gaps in the literature exist regarding comparisons between letter grades and standards-based grades in terms of increasing student achievement and reporting student learning. The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to determine whether one grading method is more effective than the other in promoting student achievement and reporting student learning to stakeholders in southern Utah. Social-cognitive and motivational learning theories provided the theoretical framework for this study. Key research questions focused on the perceptions and experiences of school administrators, teachers, and parents of students who have experienced both grading methods regarding their advantages and disadvantages in fostering student achievement and reporting that achievement. Data were collected using email questionnaires and telephone or in-person interviews with four parents and 12 educators from two secondary education schools selected by a criteria-based sample of convenience. Data collection occurred through triangulation and strict adherence to bracketing practices. Braun and Clarke’s thematic analysis model was used to analyze the data. Findings suggest standards-based grading makes students partners in their learning and may increase academic achievement. Recommendations encourage district leaders to consider and properly implement standards-based grading practices to foster student achievement and accurately report student learning.