Problem: There is an existing cycle of questionable grading practices at the K-12 level. As a
result, districts continue to search for innovative methods of evaluating and reporting student
progress. One result of this effort has been the adoption of a standards-based grading approach.
Research concerning standards-based grading implementation has resulted in an abundance of
strategies to change existing practices used by educators. Very little attention has been given to
the experience of new educators, who are still developing their educational pedagogy and
practice for the first time.
Procedures: This hermeneutic phenomenology (Heidegger, 2008; Van der Zalm & Bergum,
2000) explored the lived experience of 11 first or second year teachers in districts currently
utilizing a standards-based grading approach. The research question for this study was: What is
the lived experience of first or second year K-12 educators in districts using standards-based
grading policies? This overarching research question was supported by five supporting subquestions,
which utilized Senge’s (2006) Five Disciplines of the Learning Organization as a
conceptual framework. Purposeful, criterion, and stratified purposive sampling were all used for
recruiting participants for this study (Creswell, 2014; Salmons, 2010; Van der Zalm & Bergum,
2000). Data was collected using a three-interview approach recommended by Seidman (2013),
including life history, details of experience, and reflection on the meaning. Additional data
gathered included supplemental materials and researcher reflections. The data analysis process
included coding, triangulation, member-checking, and inter-coder agreement.
Findings: Findings were communicated in a descriptive and interpretive method, in order to gain
understanding of a specific phenomenon (Heidegger, 2008; Van der Zalm & Bergum, 2000).
Data analysis resulted in the following findings: (a) inconsistencies with grading and assessment
preservice training, (b) student teaching experiences, (c) professional development practice
concerning grading and assessment, (d) focusing on connections with students, (e) navigating the
traditional K-12 assessment model, (f) experiences of new teachers as K-12 students, (g) grading
based on standards, (h) inconsistencies in SBG implementation, (i) balancing theory and
practice, (j) the role of mentors, (k) the function of PLCs, (l) the role of new educators on teacher
teams, (m) the responsibility of teachers to grade student work, (n) holding students accountable
for their work, and (o) translating a number to a letter grade.
Conclusions: Varying experiences in preservice programs, the presence of a mentor, a lack of
consistent SBG implementation, and fundamental misunderstandings of the standards-based
grading system create a unique lived experience for the new educators.
Recommendations: Preservice programs should be providing more specific training for new
educators in the areas of assessment and grading. Preservice educators would benefit from more
explicit instruction concerning assessment and grading; specifically, preservice programs should
explore implementing a specific assessment and grading course. Districts that are currently
utilizing a standards-based model should ensure consistent implementation of SBG building and
district-wide, as well as adopt a competency-based professional development model for their
teachers concerning grading and assessment practice. It is essential for districts to consistently
and accurately communicate the rationale for SBG to their respective faculties.||en_US