I wrote about this topic once before. As I read though Marzano's Formative Assessment and Standards-Based Grading, I am becoming even more convinced that standards-based grading is merely a tool to improve teaching and learning.
"Indeed, at the writing of this book, no major study (that we are aware of) has demonstrated that simply grading in a standards-based manner enhances student achievement. However,...a fairly strong case can be made that student achievement will be positively affected if standards-based reporting is rooted in a clear-cut system of formative assessments." (18)A grading system that does not allow new evidence of learning to replace the old, standards-based or otherwise, is not giving our students the learning opportunities they need and deserve. A feedback starved classroom fails to meet the mark, too. I like the Brookhart and Nitko quote in Marzano's book that nails the definition of formative assessment:
"...formative assessment is a loop: Students and teachers focus on a learning target, evaluate current student work against the target, act to move the work closer to the target and repeat." (10)From my own experience discussing formative assessment with secondary teaching colleagues, a major hurdle to embracing/using the formative assessment loop in the classroom is grades. Marzano agrees,
"At the classroom level, any discussion of assessment ultimately ends up in a discussion of grading." (15)It just so happens that some of us are choosing to use standards-based reporting as a medium for reaching this ideal. Personally, I can't imagine a grading system in my own secondary math classroom that would philosophically fit other than standards-based reporting. I'm guessing someone has figured out another way to make their classroom feedback-friendly in the spirit of formative assessment while simultaneously embracing the idea that grades should communicate learning only. I look forward to reading about it so that I can share with my colleagues. I find myself preaching standards-based grading too often when I should be evangelizing the formative assessment loop instead.