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Linn-Mar  High School

Standards Based Learning

Click here to download the Linn-Mar High School Standards-Based Learning Handbook

LMCSD Statement of Beliefs

The Linn-Mar Community School District believes:

  • All students will learn.
  • All students will benefit from adults understanding the needs of the whole child through understanding of social-emotional health and student safety/security.
  • All students will have multiple ways to access course or grade level curriculum standards.
  • All students will achieve at high levels through evidence-based instructional practices.

 Standards-Based Learning Overview

Standards-Based Learning refers to a system of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting based on students demonstrating understanding or mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn.

Course standards explicitly state what students need to know or be able do in order to demonstrate they have mastered the new material. Communication and pursuit of standards are the means through which students are guided to achieve targeted learning goals.

Educational research supports explicit communication of learning goals. The following excerpt is taken from The Art and Science of Teaching.

“Establishing and communicating learning goals are the starting place. After all, for learning to be effective, clear targets in terms of information and skill must be established…. For example, the Lipsey and Wilson (1993) study synthesizes findings from 204 reports. Consider the average effect size of 0.55 from those 204 effect sizes. This means that in the 204 studies they examined, the average score in classes where goal setting was effectively employed was 0.55 standard deviations greater than the average score in classes where goal setting was not employed…. For the Lipsey and Wilson effect size of 0.55, the percentile gain is 21. This means that the average score in classes where goal setting was effectively employed would be 21 percentile points higher than the average score in classes where goal setting was not employed.”

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching. Alexandria, VA: Assoc for Supervision and Curriculum Dev.


Listed below are some of the most commonly used terms associated with Standards-BasedLearning (SBL).

  • Assessment: A measurement of student learning. An assessment need not (but may) take the form of a written examination.
    • Common Assessment:  An assessment of student learning which has been developed collaboratively by teachers in advance of a unit of study in the same course.  It is used for the purpose of analyzing the degree to which students have met the stated expectation of learning. Common assessments will have the same format, structure, and level of difficulty, and be used for all sections of the same course.
    • Final Assessment:  Final assessments may take one of two forms, comprehensive or targeted. A comprehensive assessment is designed to measure a majority of term priority standards for a course.  A targeted assessment is designed to measure a limited set of standards for a course.  A final assessment need not (but may) take the form of a written examination. Other demonstrations of student learning are acceptable and encouraged where appropriate.  Presentations, performances, and final projects are examples of comprehensive assessments that may increase measurement validity for a given area of study.
    • Formative Assessment:  An ongoing assessment measuring the degree to which a student has met the stated expectation of learning or standard.  Typical examples include class discussions, homework, and quizzes. Formative assessments inform and drive instruction. Assessments that are designated as formative do not calculate into a final grade.
    • Summative Assessment:  A culminating assessment measuring the degree to which a student has met the stated expectation of learning or standard performance.  Typical examples include projects, presentations, and tests.
  • Course: Linn-Mar High School courses are defined in terms of addressed content and learning standards expected of students. Each course approved for credit has been defined by documentation on file with the LMCSD Department of Teaching and Learning and is accessible to patrons of the Linn-Mar Community School District.
  • Employability Skills: Non-academic behaviors which lead to success that a student is expected to know and be able to demonstrate. Examples of employability skills include responsibility, collaboration, and perseverance.
  • Learning: Knowledge or skill acquired through experience or study.
  • Letter Grade: A grade assigned on a traditional scale (A, B, C, D, F). Traditional grades will be calculated from standards scale scores using the master Linn-Mar High School standard conversion scale (page 9).
  • Proficiency Scale: This grading tool lists the expected performance necessary to meet a standard. A proficiency scale additionally describes levels of learning both above and below proficient. Prerequisite skills necessary to meet a standard are described and advanced skills needed to exceed a standard are identified.
  • Proficient: Student demonstrates that they can meet / have met the requirements of a standard as defined by a written proficiency scale.  Proficient is a higher level of performance than is required for passing.
  • Scale Score: A score associated with a defined level of performance relative to a given standard. At Linn-Mar High School, a standard scale score will be a number on a scale of 1 to 4 (see page 7) representing a unique level of proficiency. Also called a standard mark.
  • Standards Based Learning: The practice of instructing and assessing students based on standards of what the student will know and be able to do. Assessments provide students the opportunity to demonstrate their progress within the stated standard.
  • Standard:  A statement of what a student is expected to know and be able to do by the end of a course of study.
    • Priority Standard: A statement of essential learning for the course. Most high school courses will have from 3 to 5 priority standards for a five-credit course and from 6 to 10 priority standards for a ten-credit course. Each priority standard may include multiple supporting standards. Student performance on priority standards is recorded and accessible in PowerSchool.
    • Supporting Standard: Supporting standards may be used to evaluate student proficiency on priority standards. High school courses may have as many as 20 to 30 supporting standards per course. Supporting standards may or may not be used in a course to contribute to the calculated grade.

Linn-Mar High School Instructional Principles

  1. Student learning of priority standards is the focus of instruction.
  2. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are crucial for obtaining accurate measures of student progress toward meeting standards while establishing and adjusting instruction as necessary to identify student strengths and areas for growth.
  3. Academics and employability skills must be taught and assessed separately, meaningfully, and authentically.
  4. Reteaching and reassessment must be provided for meaningful learning opportunities to meet standards.
  5. Homework is important practice for achieving standard goals that leads to constructive feedback, student accountability, and use in authentic classroom contexts.
  6. Student success must be reinforced with intentional instruction on academic and employability skills to make sure all students have opportunity to show learning at a high level.

Assessment of Student Learning

Assessment measures the degree to which a student has gained the essential learnings required of a course of study. Standards provide the framework for scale-referenced assessment of student learning.

Why Assign and Report Student Grades?

Assessment is important for many reasons. First, assessment provides feedback to students for measuring progress on defined learning goals. Research on feedback shows an “average effect size of .79, which is twice the average effect of all other schooling effects. (Hattie, 2011)
Feedback is one of the most consequential means of affecting student learning.

Second, assessment provides teachers and school leaders information to improve program effectiveness and instructional methods. While not all forms of assessment provide an objective means to analyze and advance student performance, standards-based measures clearly identify where students are succeeding and where they are not. This data assists teachers and schools to make decisions about the effectiveness of programs and methods used to prepare students. Programs and methods that support student success are emphasized, while programs and methods that do not are either adjusted for more positive effect or eliminated.

Third, the assessment and reporting of student grades are important to individuals and organizations outside of the student and their school. Parents use quality information regarding that which a student knows and is able to do to provide home environments to support student progress toward desired learning. Employers and post-secondary institutions use secondary course grades, standardized test scores, and descriptions of student experiences to appraise student ability and work skills. State and national governments use standardized test information, graduation rates, and subject-specific measures of student performance to set policy and evaluate schools.

It is the responsibility of the school to help students gain knowledge and skill, assess student progress, and report meaningful and accurate measures of student ability (grades) to students and others who use the information grades provide.

Measuring Student Learning

Linn-Mar High School is committed to accurately assessing student performance and reporting student proficiency through the use of scale scores and letter grades. This commitment will honor the following principles.

  • Assessment policies will be grounded in best practice.
  • Grading practices will be consistent across disciplines.
  • Course letter grades will have consistent meaning and value across disciplines.
  • Course letter grades will be determined similarly across disciplines.
  • Course letter grades will be calculated identically for all sections of the same course.
  • Course credit will have consistent meaning and value across disciplines.