Standards Based Education

  • Somerdale Park School’s standards-based instruction system establishes challenging and appropriate learning targets for all students. We do this in every course, at every grade level, and in every classroom. We use standards-based education in grades K-2 to ensure our students graduate with critical knowledge and 21st century skills.

    What is Standards-Based Instruction and Grading?

    • Provides a fair and objective way to evaluate students based on what they have learned while providing the appropriate level of challenge and rigor. 
    • Standards-based learning provides the foundation for 21st century learning opportunities that prepare students for today, tomorrow and the future.
    • Gives teachers a powerful system for teaching.
    • Helps parents be knowledgeable participants in their students’ education.
    • Standards-based education is the teaching, assessment and reporting of student performance based on consistent and equitable measurements. 

We use 4 indicators of mastery to identify how students are progressing:

Mastery Indicators

On the report card, these are identified by numbers 1-4, or IN/NE. 

the cupcake analogy

See a sample report card, below. You can see that this student improved overall from Q1 to Q4 in every subject. In order to determine the score of 1-4, we use rubrics, which are all available in the Curriculum Outline.

sample standards based report card


Q1. How will parents know what students need to do for class?

A1. Teachers in Middle School use OnCourse Classroom to share assignment status. Use OnCourse Connect to check. Scores will be reported at Interims and Report Card intervals. 

Q2: How will parents know how students can improve?

A2: Use the rubrics ( to see where a student is and how they can improve.

Q3: What does NE mean vs. IN? What about a blank box?

A3: NE means not evaluated, where IN means insufficient evidence. A blank box most likely means not evaluated, but check with your student's teacher to be sure. It could be a clerical error- we all make them!

Q4: Why are you reporting behavior and citizenship separate from academics? 

A4: In our commitment to student achievement, we are focusing intently on instruction as it relates to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. In order to isolate success on the content required by the standards, we are eliminating participation and effort from the final grade. We are still measuring participation and effort, but are communicating it differently.  See the handbook for information regarding eligibility for clubs and athletics.

Q5: Why did we decide to go to a standards-based approach? Can’t we just go back to a traditional letter grading system? 

A5: A standards-based approach allows parents and students to understand more clearly what is expected of students and how to help them be successful in their learning. It tells us what students have actually learned by measuring a student’s progress on grade level standards. Rather than receiving an overall grade for a subject, parents will see ratings for specific skills their child needs to know to reach grade level standards. This is important information for parents and teachers and it is often hidden within one overall letter grade. Traditional grading also includes subjective factors like attendance, effort, and attitude, which might influence the grade positively or negatively. In a standards based approach, these behaviors are reported separately in order to portray a more accurate report of student progress. A standards-based system also focuses on the most recent, consistent level of performance. Traditional grading systems use averaging to calculate grades, which often penalizes students for the learning process. 

Q6: How will we teach them the importance of homework work and motivate them to turn things in?

A6: In a standards-based system, the emphasis is on learning. When a student doesn’t do work, the inherent consequence is that he or she doesn’t learn the content or practice the skill. Rather than applying academic consequences by lowering a grade, teachers will be working with students to ensure the work is completed. By enforcing this behavior, students will be held accountable for work completion and will not be able to avoid this important responsibility. As a district, we realize that homework and practice tied directly to learning targets is an important component of student achievement. It is of the teacher’s discretion to provide homework opportunities. Providing students with nonjudgmental written or verbal feedback enables teachers to assess student understanding and provides the student safe opportunities to practice - without judgment.