I’ve been a proponent of standards based grading since the beginning of my teaching career. Fortunately, I was hired by a principal with the same sentiments.

Standards based grading is natural when you’re creating your lesson plans with the Common Core Standards, TEKS, or with any other state or local standards. Why would you teach using standards if you weren’t going to assess using those same standards?

One of the very basic tenets of excellent teaching is to let the students know what they will be learning and what they will be expected to be able to do at the end of a unit. Standards based planning and grading makes the mastery goals clear to them.

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Tracking Standards Mastery

For example, let’s say you’re teaching a unit on figurative language to a fourth grade class, specifically common idioms. You’d be teaching with this standard if you use Common Core Standards:

Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.

The standard clearly states exactly what students will be able to do, or SWBAT. The verbs in the standard, “recognize and explain” make it an easy pass to create lessons and an assessment that aligns with this.

You can spend as much time as you like on this, but in the beginning, you’ll want to make the SWBAT clear to the students. If you have a rubric, put the expectations in age-appropriate, kid-friendly terms. In the end, you’ll want to assess the students based on the idioms you taught them.

Why Use a Standards Based Grading System?

Three reasons:


In the example of the idioms unit, it’s defined and clear exactly where the grade for the assessment will go in the standards based grading system. You could certainly choose to assess the students on their use of CUPS, (Capitalization, Usage, Punctuation, and Spelling) if you tell them ahead of time they’ll be assessed on this standard:

Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.


Again, the verb in the standard, “demonstrate”, along with a clear rubric, makes it easy to decide if the student reached mastery. Then you can pop the grade in the gradebook under that standard. One and done!




I’m all about integrating teaching, assessment, and review across the curriculum. You can plan your lessons to include two or a few standards across the subjects you teach. For example, the common core language skills, writing research, and a science standard could all be folded into one project. You can give an overall grade for the project, but also break out the grading for each standard within it. By adopting standards based grading, you can easily determine if a student has mastered a skill, based on their work in many different areas.

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Standards Based Grading with a Digital Gradebook

Since I’m a proponent of standards and of standards based grading, I’ve always structured my grade books with one page for each standard. I also kept extra pages for running records, informal assessments, and ungraded work completed or not completed.

When we moved to virtual teaching and learning in the pandemic month of March 2020, it was the perfect time to adapt my messy paper based teacher grade book to a clean, sleek, and efficient digital gradebook and a separate assignment tracker.

Here’s a preview of the gradebook.

The digital gradebook is in Google Apps (™) because it makes it so easy to access anywhere and you don’t have to worry about losing any data. It’s available in grades Kindergarten through 8th. If you use TEKS, you can find the gradebook with TEKS standards, too!

Image of a digital gradebook with the title Standards Based Gradebook.

Quick But Sad Side Story:

At one time I kept my grades on a thumb drive (remember those?) I put it in my pocket at the end of the day and totally forgot about it when I washed all my clothes. Ack! Everyone’s grades were washed clean away. Have you ever lost a term’s worth of grades? Now that was a mess that won’t happen in a digital gradebook in the cloud.

Features in the Standards Based Grade Book

To recover from that catastrophe, I created a set of standards based grade books for grades K-8. Here are some nifty features that I love about them:

Let’s say you have an impromptu parent meeting, or you have an IEP meeting and you need to present student data. You can print a progress report on the fly with these gradebooks. I think that’s one of my favorite features.

Additional Essential Teacher Data Tools

Along with the standards based gradebook, it’s handy to have a digital assignment tracker to keep track of all the online sites where your students are doing work or homework. It will also track progress for PBL and STEM projects, science fair projects, the writing process, and more.

Finally, the ultimate tool is the Report Card Comment Generator. It practically writes your report card comments for you! Find out all about these essential teacher tools by reading Best 3 Teacher Tools for a Gradebook, Report Card, and Comments

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You can take a closer look at the gradebooks at these TeacherWriter shops:

My hope is that by using a digital gradebook that’s simple to navigate and easy to use, you’ll gain back a few hours of your week.

Because every teacher deserves the weekend to relax.

A journal and pink flowers. The journals says, "Because every teacher deserves the weekend to relax."




P.S. Do you spend hours of your life writing report card comments from scratch? I’ve created a way for you to write them in minutes instead of hours.

I’m super happy to share with you that you can use the TeacherWriter Report Card Comment Generator. It makes writing comments so fast and painless, you’ll save countless hours over writing them from scratch.

Want to know more?