Luverne school district transitions to standards-based grading

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Luverne, MN The Luverne School District is slowly switching to a Standards based education system, which changes teaching and grading in the district.

The nationwide educational movement replaces traditional letter grades with a numbers rating system that reflects whether a student understands a standard.

The standards education system is not unique to Luverne, it’s actually something Sioux Falls elementary schools and many other school districts around the region have transitioned to.

Many educators believe it switches the focus from getting a good grade to understanding a concept.

“Especially in tougher classes like calculus, sometimes on that first test you don't do so well, so having that second chance to really show what you know and work harder and actually understand it, it just might take longer,” Luverne High School Senior Dylan Thorson said.

This new way of teaching assesses students understanding of different standards.

“It used to be maybe on a math test they got an 85 percent and parents were happy with that, but there might have been one area on that test that they really did poorly on and we just kind of moved on because 85 percent is a good score,” Luverne math teacher Becky Rahm. “Now we can break down that test into three or four standards.”

Educators say the new number rating system identifies if students understand the material better than letter grades.

“Kids could get by if they did well on assignments, adding up points, doing extra credit…so someone gets an ‘A’ in math but maybe they don't understand at an ‘A’ level, maybe it was really at a ‘B’ or ‘C’ level,” Luverne High School and Middle School Principal Ryan Johnson said. “So what we've done is pulled out the behavior element, now we have just an academic grade, how well do they know the standards? But then beyond that, we've got teachers that will also evaluate what's their respect level, what's their personal responsibility at, are they bringing their materials to class, are they doing their assignments on time?”

Students say it has been a big help to focus on understanding rather than grades.

“You know now each test isn't necessarily holding the weight of your entire grade,” Thorson said.

“That's the ultimate goal,” Rahm said. “It’s not the grade, but the learning that's important.”

Right now all number standards assessments are being converted to letter grades each quarter and semester. Next year Luverne's Middle School plans to fully do away with letter grades, but the high school will continue to convert assessments to letter grades so students have a GPA to use on college applications.