Grading and Assessment Trends for the 2021-22 School Year

September 28, 2021

Discussions about how best to assess and grade K-12 students have been taking place for years, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has added new urgency to those conversations. Here are three trends in grading and assessment to keep an eye out for this school year. 

1. An accelerated turn toward standards-based grading. 

Used to A through F grades on report cards? You might be in for a surprise this year as more school districts shift to a competency- or standards-based grading (SBG) model.

Unlike traditional grading frameworks that use tools like quizzes and tests to measure student progress, SBG assesses students by how well they meet learning goals or performance standards. SBG encourages students to actually master skills rather than simply chase points or grades, while teachers often find that differentiating instruction by standard levels can make lessons more pertinent to students. 

SBG was already a hot topic among school professionals before COVID-19, but as the pandemic continues, even more educators will likely take this opportunity to shift from letter grades to standards and benchmarks

2. Fewer scores, more written feedback. 

Alongside new standards and benchmarks, you may also see more written feedback on report cards and on K-12 school work generally. 

Written assessments can be more motivating to students, pinpoint specific strengths and areas for improvement in each student, and generally paint a more nuanced picture of student achievement than a single letter or numerical score. 

Educators are already calling for teachers to give students more feedback, both written and oral. One California school district has even revamped their elementary school report cards to allow more room for teachers to write feedback. (Fun Fact: jmc users can build and edit your own custom report cards with the Form Designer tool in jmc Office.) 

3. A reconsideration of how attendance relates to grades.

A traditional grade isn’t just the average of scores on homework, quizzes, and tests. Many conventional grading systems also take attendance into account, either by explicitly tying attendance to grades or by not allowing absent students to make up work. 

Early in the pandemic, when schools shifted to virtual learning, the problem with this practice quickly became apparent: Students who couldn’t log on through no fault of their own, either due to technical difficulties or a lack of equipment or internet access, were penalized with failing grades. While F’s and zeros can have far-reaching consequences for students of any age, they’re particularly harmful for older K-12 students, who have fewer years to turn around GPAs or make up for learning loss. Look for more districts to adjust policies around attendance and grades, like Madison, Wisconsin, area schools did

Learn more

jmc has a wealth of tools to help school districts grade and assess students easily, transparently and meaningfully. Learn more about our software, including our grades and standards & benchmarks modules, by emailing our sales team or visiting our YouTube channel.