What does Standards-Referenced Grading look like in Ankeny?

Posted by Dr. Anne Lundquist on 5/24/2018

Our goal in Ankeny's Academic Services department is that all students learn the content, not just the ones who can learn within established timelines. Ankeny Community School District (ACSD) is on a journey toward implementing Standards-Referenced Grading (SRG) practices. Doing so will ensure all students receive a unified experience in the delivery of high-quality curriculum, instruction, assessment, and communication practices. Implementing high-quality standards-referenced grading practices assists in achieving the mission of Ankeny Schools.


In recent years, it became clear to us that there was a distinction between standards-referenced grading and standards-based grading. Standards-referenced is the practice of making sure students learn what they were taught and achieve the expected standards within their grade level course. Standards-based is the practice of meeting a defined standard for “proficiency” and immediately progressing to the next grade-level standards. The way this plays out in our district aligns us more closely with standards-referenced grading.


Infographic depicting the differences in standards-referenced and standards-based practices  

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Simply put, a “standard” is a generic learning target that does not specify activities, texts, or materials. Standards also indicate the grade level in which students should be able to achieve these targets. For example, a high school grade level literacy standard might be:


  • Students will read closely to determine what a text means and make logical inferences.


Standards-referenced grading will be “standard work” in Ankeny in the next few years. Standard work requires clear expectations – or targets – for buildings, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), and individuals to meet. Practices are guided by an innovation configuration map organized by four essential questions:


  1. What does curriculum look like in the SRG system of ACSD?
  2. What does instruction look like in the SRG system of ACSD?
  3. What does assessment look like in the SRG system of ACSD?
  4. What does communication look like in the SRG system of ACSD?


The map is meant to guide and facilitate self-assessment, reflection, goal-setting, and professional growth. Current reality on the map might change and evolve, but the desired state remains the same – strive to become established in best standards-referenced grading practice.