The official Student News Site of Dublin High School.

The Dublin Shield

The official Student News Site of Dublin High School.

The Dublin Shield

The official Student News Site of Dublin High School.

The Dublin Shield

Standard-Based Grading: Teachers Weigh In

For+DHS+and+all+Dublin+campuses%2C+its+been+over+half+a+year+since+support+for+standard-based+grading+was+discontinued+on+a+district-wide+level.%0A
Brian Guan
For DHS and all Dublin campuses, it’s been over half a year since support for standard-based grading was discontinued on a district-wide level.

Interviews have been edited for content and clarity.

In July of 2023, the Dublin Unified school board voted to end the district’s support of standard-based grading, or SBG, a grading system which would promote assessing students on specific and unambiguous standards, largely removing informal elements such as participation and behavior from the gradebook. Previously, the board’s investigation of the practice had been driven by a “desire … to implement a grading system that reflects a student’s mastery of the subject matter and [eliminate] areas where bias can impact grading,” as per Dublin Unified’s Instagram. However, as the district escalated its exploration of standard-based grading, significant public opposition arose, with many parents expressing concerns about the potential for grade inflation, which they feared would make Dublin students less competitive in the sphere of college admissions. One Change.org petition demanding an end to “equity grading cohorts” in Dublin Unified, to which SBG is often equated, garnered over 1,500 signatures. 

Near the end of last semester, the Shield spoke to Dublin staff and community members to reflect on standard-based grading after the board’s termination of support.

When asked about the ways standard-based grading impacted her classroom, Ms. Kate Anderton, a Dublin High English and AVID teacher, revealed experiencing positive outcomes. She told the Shield, “In the year I was able to use the 0-4 with my English 1 courses, I felt that grades were more accurate and easier to understand for parents, teachers, and students. I felt that it helped highlight what students knew and what they still needed to learn… When I graded on the 4 point scale, my conversations with students went from, ‘how can I get more points to raise my grade’ to ‘how can I design a better thesis to help me write better supporting paragraphs’ or to ‘what’s a better way to introduce my evidence’—meaning students were talking about their knowledge and how to grow, not how to collect more points.”

When asked for her perspective on whether or not Dublin High’s current grading systems were equitable or not as of last semester, she added, “Not all of them… I don’t think that anyone is advocating to grade students unfairly, but I do think there are a lot of traditional practices that have been used for a long time that are inequitable, many that I used for many years myself because I just didn’t know any other way to grade… And not all of how we grade right now is inequitable; students at DUSD get an incredible experience in our district and are very successful academically. I think it’s less about what’s inequitable, and more about incorporating new strategies to keep up with how education, learning, and students are advancing and evolving.”

One Emerald High staff member who had previously worked in Dublin Unified expressed discontent with the way the investigation into standard-based grading was executed on a practical level. Explaining that “grading policy [hadn’t] necessarily changed,” they characterized the introduction of standards-based grading as “almost a blank check for teachers—if you want to try it, try it. Putting that sort of decision making on a populous level… with something like grading, which holds so much weight… allows for good iterations to become conflated with negative iterations.”

Regarding the district ending standard-based grading support, the EHS staff member told the Shield, “I think the biggest disappointment is the lack of nuance. Ending things almost because a buzzword was used too much is kind of disappointing… We missed this opportunity to say, ‘We have tried things out; what was the good?’ instead of, ‘In some of these experiments it seems like things have gone off the rails; let’s scrap it all’… At the end of the day, the board is elected by the community, and if the community is upset… it is what it is. But the way [SBG] was rolled out was missing steps that would’ve protected it further and made it more clean.”

Though official district support of SBG was struck down, renewed efforts to explore new, improved grading policies may be underway. Recently, the Dublin Unified School Board has been discussing implementing a 50% grading floor district-wide, which would aim to weigh all letter grades A-F equally on a 100 percent scale. While an action surrounding a “Potential Community Survey” about grading policy was pulled from the board’s February 27 meeting, the most recent as per the writing of this article, a decision is expected this upcoming Tuesday, March 12.

About the Contributor
Brian Guan, Quarterly Columnist
Brian Guan is a junior and the Entertainment section editor for the Shield! He is passionate about writing and creative expression, having received recognition from YoungArts, Scholastic Art and Writing, the Blank Theatre, and more. When he's not writing or frantically promoting auditions for the drama department, Brian can be found discussing movies, FaceTiming his friends, or listening to Phoebe Bridgers.