Standards Reference Grading Best Practices

 Indicators with Descriptors

I. Classroom Culture and Environment

·   Classrooms are inviting to students of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, clear of clutter, and consistently used as a resource to promote learning.

·   Classroom furniture and physical arrangements are conducive to learning and modified as appropriate, considering accessibility for students with disabilities.

·   Classrooms utilize a common board configuration that includes a Date, Benchmark, Objective, Agenda, Essential Question, Opening and Closing Activity, and Homework (with alternate formats used when high levels of individualized instruction are needed in PK/ESE, Multi-VE, or SC-E/BD classes). 

·   Classrooms display/contain literacy-rich, instructional-based visual aids and resources (e.g., interactive word walls, content posters, process posters, classroom libraries, student produced work, picture schedules and other visual supports, and project displays ).

·   Interactive word walls are current, organized, and referenced throughout instruction in ways that help students increase their vocabulary acquisition and use of content vocabulary .

·   Classrooms display exemplary student work to establish quality control expectations for various tasks and assessments (e.g., note-taking, graphic organizers, homework, and quizzes with problem solving steps).

·   Classroom schedules are followed, activities are organized, transitions between activities are smooth, and instruction is bell-to-bell.

·   Clear expectations for acceptable student behavior and classroom procedures are established, communicated, modeled, and maintained.

·   Positive peer interaction is expected and reinforced.

·   Classrooms are task oriented while the social and emotional needs of students are identified, valued, and encouraged through mutual respect and rapport.

For each activity and transition, the student understands the rules for moving about the class/campus.


Indicators with descriptors

II. Instructional Tools and Materials

·   Curriculum maps for each content area by course and/or grade level include the scope and sequence, pacing/calendaring of content, and suggested science laboratory experiments, mathematics manipulatives, writing prompts, etc. for each unit of study.

·   Lesson plans utilize district curriculum, include individualization necessary to meet IEP goals, and are paced to support individual student needs in PK/ESE, Multi-VE, or SC-E/BD ESE classes.

·   Content materials are available in a variety of formats, are research-based, are aligned with the standards, and are labeled when needed to support students with disabilities.

·   Adequate content materials and technologies that support student learning are neatly organized, readily available for use, and easily accessible by the teacher and all students (e.g., textbooks, workbooks, journals, novels, manipulatives, measuring instruments, science lab materials, graphing calculators, and computers).

·   Culturally and developmentally appropriate materials are utilized to support student learning, taking into consideration the uniqueness of student’s resources or possible lack of resources.

·   Age-appropriate materials are used for students with disabilities.

·   Supplemental materials offer further breadth and depth to lessons.

·   Various learning styles are represented by resource materials (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic).

·   Course materials relate to students’ lives and highlight ways learning can be applied in real-life situations.

·   Teachers have access to projection devices and a range of technology including manipulatives (and assistive technology when needed for students with disabilities).

All instructional staff members are provided with training on the use of necessary instructional tools and materials.

Indicators with Descriptors

III. Lesson Planning and Delivery

·   Teachers will review the cumulative records to identify individual student needs.

·   Teachers follow instructional pacing guides that are aligned with the standards. 

·   Teachers regularly monitor student progress and use that data to make instructional decisions.

·   Essential Questions are written in student friendly language, posted in the classroom, and referred to during every lesson to build connections between activities and learning. 

·   Teachers unpack standards to determine the content, knowledge, and abilities expected at each grade level or with a course of study.

·   Teachers develop lesson plans using a research-based lesson format that promotes a gradual release of responsibility.

·   Teachers follow an instructional delivery model that includes explicit instruction, modeled instruction, guided practice, and independent practice as well as a lesson assessment.

·   Teachers use clear and explicit language when providing directions and instruction to students.

·   Teachers use the Test Item Specifications to select examples for use during explicit instruction, modeled instruction, guided practice, independent practice, and lesson assessment for instruction of benchmarks.

·   Lesson delivery is appropriately paced and allows students sufficient opportunity to practice new skills and strategies with adjustments to instruction as appropriate to meet student needs.   

·   The re-teaching of previously taught material is seamlessly integrated and students are provided opportunities to apply prior knowledge to new content/concepts and to real word context.

·   Teachers share lesson ideas and evaluate the effectiveness of lesson planning and delivery through common planning time, the Lesson Study Process, and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

Indicators with Descriptors

IV. Higher Order Questioning and Discourse

·   Questioning strategies are designed to promote critical, independent, and creative thinking.

·   Questioning techniques require students to compare, classify, analyze different perspectives, induce, investigate, problem solve, inquire, research, and to make decisions.

·   Teachers use inquiry methods to promote conceptual change and a deeper understanding of the content.

·   Teachers model higher order thinking skills using "think-a-louds" to verbalize thinking, such as forming mental pictures, connecting information to prior knowledge, creating analogies, clarifying confusing points, and/or making/revising predictions.

·   Scaffolding, pacing, prompting, and probing techniques are used when asking questions.

·   Teachers use adequate “wait time” between asking questions and eliciting student responses. 

·   Students understand the purpose of a lesson or a lab and are able to explain what they are learning and how it relates to real world and/or current events relevant to students' gender, ethnicity, age, culture, etc.

·   Students engage in “accountable talk” to show, tell, explain, and prove reasoning during modeled instruction and guided practice.

·   Students use content vocabulary from the interactive word wall during classroom discourse.

·   Students use a variety of methods (i.e., verbal, visual, numerical, algebraic, graphical, etc.) to represent and communicate their ideas and/or procedures.

Teachers provide students opportunities to contribute to class discussion and elaborate upon their own ideas.

Indicators with Descriptors

V. Student Engagement

·   Teachers employ a variety of learning strategies that engage students in active participation, address multiple learning styles and cultural experiences, and stimulate students’ intellectual interest.

·   Units of study are introduced with a hook to engage students in connections relevant to students’ interests, culture, age, gender, etc.

·   Students fully participate in the learning process by asking and answering questions, attempting new approaches, making mistakes, and asking for assistance.

·   Students interact with other students and teachers concerning their tasks and assessments aligned with the standards. 

·   Students participate in hands-on activities that include the use of appropriate content materials and technologies.

·   Teachers conduct inquiry based activities, demonstrations, and/or lab experiments on a regular and consistent basis.

·   Students take part in peer-to-peer interaction while working in pairs, triads, and quads. 

·   Teachers incorporate collaborative structures (e.g., think-pair-share) during guided practice.

·   Students take part in cooperative projects where each student’s knowledge is needed by others in the group to complete the task.

·   Students are active participants in developing hypotheses, designing procedures, carrying out investigations, and analyzing data.

·   Teachers make adjustments in instruction (e.g., pace, modality, questioning, and collaborative structures) for all students in the classroom based on student engagement throughout a lesson.

Indicators with Descriptors

VI. Rigorous Tasks and Assessments

·   Tasks follow an appropriate progression of rigor according to the four Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Levels (i.e., DOK 1 Recall and Reproduction, DOK 2 Skills and Concepts/Basic Reasoning, DOK 3 Strategic Thinking/Complex Reasoning, and DOK 4 Extended Thinking/Reasoning).

·   Tasks and assessments meet each benchmark's Cognitive Complexity rating (i.e., low, moderate, or high) [or complexity level (i.e., participatory, supported, or independent) for students working toward Sunshine State Standard Access Points].

·   Students are provided with specific expectations as to how class assignments are to be completed, when they are to be finished, the form in which they are to be presented, and the quality of the final product or outcome.

·   Teachers hold students accountable for and give appropriate feedback on classwork and homework.

·   Frequent informal and formal assessments are used to monitor individual student progress, including progress toward mastery of the standards and to make instructional changes, if needed.

·   Teachers incorporate “Checks for Understanding” throughout a lesson (e.g., fist or five, thumbs up/down/middle, white board responses, and student accountable talk, and student response to direction/prompts) to ensure students are obtaining the knowledge and skills to answer the Essential Question or to achieve desired outcome(s) of the lesson (e.g., use of appropriate social, communication, motor, and/or self-care skills) by the end of class with a final Check for Understanding (e.g., exit ticket, journal response, and board races).

·   Teachers make adjustments in instructional techniques for all students in the classroom  based on student responses to “Checks for Understanding” throughout a lesson.

·   Scoring rubrics are generated, utilized, and shared with students to establish detailed expectations on lessons, assignments, essays, and projects (visual cues, examples of  finished products, and other accommodations are used for this purpose and correspond with IEPs of students with disabilities).

·   Teachers use formative assessments or other appropriate assessment tools to monitor students’ mastery of skills and strategies and to pace students’ learning.

·   Teachers use summative assessments to monitor students’ retention and reinforcement of skills and strategies following instruction.

·   Teachers maintain accurate, complete and updated documentation, (e.g., data binders), of student data for all assessments as well as observational and

      anecdotal records in the course of monitoring students’ development.

·   Teachers employ performance-based assessments that require students to demonstrate  skills and competencies that realistically represent problems and situations likely to be encountered in daily life, then judge the quality of the student's work based on an agreed-upon set of criteria.

·   Teachers of students served in PK/ESE, Multi-VE, or SC-E/BD classes promote generalization of learned skills to home/community environments by regularly sharing progress and instructional strategies with parents.

·   Student portfolios are maintained and used as an ongoing measure of student progress and may include student work, reports, reflections, self-assessments, and even peer-teacher assessments.

·   Diagnostic assessments are used for the students not demonstrating progress in core  content instruction.

·   Teachers have a direct real-time access to student achievement data and collaboration in order to implement instructional changes based on the data.

Indicators with Descriptors

VII. Differentiated Instruction

·   Student performance and assessment data is analyzed and used as a basis for providing specific levels of differentiated instruction.

·   Teachers meet with administration and/or instructional coaches to redirect the instructional focus and ensure that interventions and strategies are implemented to provide remediation for deficient students and enrichment for proficient students.

·   Inclusion of members of ESE and Student Services to implement PS/RtI in addressing the students not responding to core curriculum and the resistant and defiant student.

·   Teachers vary the levels of abstractness and complexity as appropriate for students at different levels of readiness through modifications, accommodations, and extensions of content and instructional tools and materials.

·   Based on individual student needs, students are actively engaged in varied partner, triad, quad, and/or small group activities that reinforce or enhance skills on previously taught content. 

·   During individual or group activities, teachers simultaneously provide intensive, maintenance and enrichment instruction to rotating groups of students, or to individual students based on individual needs indicated by data reports.

·   Based on the various learning styles, interests and abilities of individual students, teachers employ unit menus (i.e., an array of project choices) leveled tasks (i.e., a series of tasks at a consistent cognitive level), and/or tiered learning activities (i.e., a series of related tasks of varying complexity) as alternative ways of mastering the same benchmark.

·   Anchor activities such as learning centers and research-based computer programs are used to reinforce the standards and/or extend learning.

·   School administrators and teachers target interventions for individual students in AYP subgroups based upon data analysis.

Indicators with Descriptors

VIII. Cross Content Reading and Writing Instruction

·   All teachers participate in ongoing professional development to increase knowledge and application of research-based reading strategies (e.g., concept mapping, forming mental images, K-W-L chart, and series of event chain) in all content area lessons.

·   Teachers provide the scaffolding and support across content areas (i.e., reciprocal teaching routines) necessary for students to generalize the use of four strategies that good readers use to comprehend text: predicting, questioning, clarifying, and summarizing.

·   Teachers incorporate vocabulary acquisition strategies (e.g., picture notes, word mapping, interactive word walls, column notes, and context clues) into their lessons before, during, and after reading content materials.

·   To comprehend content area reading materials, teachers provide students with explicit vocabulary instruction to determine the meanings of general, specialized, and technical content-related words and concepts (e.g., word origins and their meanings, decontextualizing words, high frequency words across multiple domains, multi-faceted meanings, and shades of meaning).

·   Teachers use non-fiction reading materials that support student learning and ensure materials are readily available and easily accessible by all students.

·   Students write science lab reports and/or maintain lab journals that include the components of the scientific method.

·   Word problems are incorporated into every mathematics lesson and all homework sets.

·   Teachers incorporate FCAT short response and extended response items in lessons, homework, and assessment to apply scientific and mathematical thinking and skills.

·   Teachers utilize practice materials/alternate assessment format in everyday lessons and assessments for students taking the Florida Alternate Assessment.

Students follow a common writing process to produce essays and compositions including prewriting/planning, writing/drafting, revising, editing/proofreading and publishing.

Indicators with Descriptors

IX. Florida’s Continuous Improvement Model (FCIM)

·   Teachers use Florida’s Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) to drive FCIM for reading (PK/ESE teachers use district’s Emergent Literacy/program diagnostic tool.)

·   Reading teachers use the FAIR Broad Screen/Progress Monitoring Tool (BS/PMT) three times a year to identify content cluster areas for comprehension in need of additional time and focus and predict student’s FCAT Success Probability (FSP).

·   Reading teachers review universal screening data following each FAIR BS/PMT of Reading Comprehension (RC) to identify students in need of intervention/differentiated instruction.

·   Reading teachers use Targeted Diagnostic Inventory (TDI) results of Maze and Word Analysis (WA) to help identify the underlying reasons for reading comprehension problems and assist  in intervention planning for students with FSPs below 85%.

·   Every 20 days, all students receiving reading intervention complete Ongoing Progress Monitoring (OPM) of Reading Comprehension (RC), Maze, and Florida Oral Reading Fluency (F-ORF).

·   Reading teachers access student data on the Progress Monitoring Resource Network (PMRN) to compare students’ rate of progress to rate of progress required to close the  current gap to determine if reading intervention plans are effective.

·   Reading teachers examine rate of progress for all disaggregated groups and modify interventions for groups not meeting rate of expected progress to close gaps.

·   Benchmark assessments in reading, mathematics, and science are disaggregated to focus instruction on student weaknesses in each benchmark's content foci (i.e., specific skill) listed in the Content Focus Reports.                                                                                                       

·   Mathematics and science FCIM calendars, mini-lessons, and mini-assessments are developed within PLCs and aligned with each benchmarks’ level of cognitive complexity, sample item design features, and stimulus and response attributes, as well as the grade-specifications content limits detailed in the Test Item Specifications.

·   FCIM mini-lessons instruction is explicit and delivered by all teachers on a daily basis. 

·   Teachers analyze data from ongoing assessments (i.e., baseline, monthly, mini, and  mid-year) to determine student levels of deficiency and proficiency on annually assessed benchmarks for all subject areas.

·   FCIM mini-assessment data is analyzed during PLCs and used to redirect the instructional focus based on student achievement.

·   Based on FCIM mini-assessment results, students are provided tutorial and enrichment opportunities.

·   FCIM maintenance strategies are developed within PLCs and are a part of daily instruction and schoolwide systems.

·   School leadership monitors the fidelity and evaluates the effectiveness of the FCIM mathematics and science processes including FAIR for reading through classroom walkthroughs and regular meetings with grade levels and/or the department teams.

Data chats occur regularly between district personnel and principal, principal and teacher, and teacher and student.

Indicators with Descriptors

X. School and District Leadership

·   School and district leadership systematically collect and analyze multiple types of data to guide a range of decisions to improve instruction and increase student achievement.

·   District leadership trains school leadership and staff on performance appraisal instruments and the performance appraisal process is implemented with fidelity by school administration.

·   School and district leadership participate in a comprehensive instructional monitoring   process that collects observational data on the fidelity of programs, policies, and procedures in the classroom.

·   School and district leadership teams are visible in the classroom and serve as instructional leaders by offering and coordinating professional development to address instructional needs/concerns through data analysis and instructional walkthroughs.

·   School and district leadership provide teachers with guidance and modeling in the classroom designed to improve instruction while adhering to all steps of the coaching cycle. 

·   School and district leadership allocates resources fairly, provides the organizational infrastructure, and removes barriers in order to sustain continuous school improvement.

·   School and district leadership monitors the implementation of the School Improvement Plan with fidelity.

·   School Advisory Council (SAC) receives quarterly updates on the implementation of the School Improvement Plans and makes necessary revisions.

·   School’s master schedule shows opportunity for common planning periods amongst instructional staff to promote Lesson Study, PLCs, and data chats.

·   School leadership establishes a system for shared instructional leadership to formalize roles and responsibilities for the Principal, Assistant Principal(s), Instructional Coaches,  Department Heads, Grade Level Lead Teachers, etc.

·   School and district leadership align the coach’s activities with the SIP and monitor the   coach’s impact using unannounced classroom walk throughs, looking for evidence of improvement.

·   Instructional coaching responsibilities are clearly delineated from other administrative activities.

Indicators with Descriptors

XI. School wide Culture for Positive Behavior Supports

·         School-wide behavior expectations and reward systems are taught formally and informally to students - occurs multiple times during the year to include transferring students, integrated into curriculums, common language used by staff and students across settings; dates for reward activities have been set and placed on school calendars

·         Behavior expectations have been posted throughout the school - including hallways, cafeteria, playground, special rooms, restrooms, offices, and classrooms

·         Positive behaviors are rewarded consistently across staff and settings

·         Procedures for handling inappropriate behaviors are implemented consistently across staff and settings

        Office discipline forms are completed consistently and accurately across staff

·         Discipline data are gathered and entered into the data base consistently and in a timely manner

·         Discipline data are used in PBS Team meetings to identify problems and guide school decisions       Discipline data are summarized and reported to staff on a regular basis

·         Parents and community members are actively involved in PBS related activities, programs, and/or services

·         Data and staff feedback are used to make decisions regarding additional training and professional staff development

·         A plan is in place for training new PBS team members - including new administrators, staff, and district personnel

·         Data and staff feedback are used to revise and update the PBS action plan for the school and district - reviewed and revised as needed

·         Links with the community and other resources have been established to assist with funding and incentives

·         Morale is sustained among staff and students - staff and student attendance and participation in PBS efforts is high, system in place to recognize staff (and parent) contributions

·     The school has a data-based process for identifying students in need of Tier 2 supports

·     Student’s needs are prioritized to assure that students with the greater needs are supported

·    Tier 2 interventions are matched to the function of the behavior

·    The school has more than 2 Tier 2 programs in place

·    The school is checking to make sure that Tier 2 programs are implemented with fidelity

·    A progress monitoring system is in place for all students receiving Tier 2 Interventions

·      The school team makes decisions on students’ response to intervention from the progress monitoring system

·     Data-based decision-making is used to identify students in need of Tier 3 supports

·     Student’s needs are prioritized to assure that students with the most intensive needs are supported

·    An FBA is conducted that identifies the problem, the events that reliably predict the problem behavior and the consequences that maintain the problem behavior

·    At least 1 hypothesis is developed from the FBA to explain the student’s problem behavior

·    Tier 3 interventions are matched to the function of the behavior

·     A BIP is developed that includes procedures to prevent problem behaviors, teach appropriate behavior, and reinforce/reward appropriate behavior

·     Teachers are “coached” in how to implement the BIP accurately and effectively

·     The school is checking to make sure that Tier 3 programs are implemented with fidelity

*A progress monitoring system is in place for all students receiving Tier 3 interventions

Sample Best Practices

The following content on this page can be found under file share as word documents for download and use in the classroom.  Send us your own best practices so we can share more great ideas and resources for the VPM classroom. 


Classroom Resources

Proficiency Prescription

You were unable to demonstrate proficiency on the assessment that covered the following standards: ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________

The assignment below is designed to help correct your understanding , and prepare you for reassessment.

________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________

Only students who complete the Proficiency Prescription will be given opportunities for reassessment.


Mrs. Stone







© Elizabeth A. Stone—Heritage Middle School

Learning Targets for Students

This document is available in file share


Stone Central: Grading Policy
Standards-Based Grading Overview by Libby Stone, Heritage Middle

Academic Meaning of a Grade: Standards-Based Grading provides grades on report cards that accurately reflect individual student achievement in relation to course essentials as outlined in the Florida State Standards. The essential pieces of this grading system are outlined below:
1. Grades are based on multiple and varied tasks/assessments over time within a grading period.

2. Assessments vary in format and frequency and may include but are not limited to tests, projects, reports, exhibits,presentations and discussions that are used to evaluate progress toward the standard. Grades are not based on Averages! To determine your grade, I will be looking at the Mode (frequency of occurrence data) with each score from the nine weeks.

3. For the standards-based grading scale, a "3" on a task/assessment is considered proficient or meeting grade-level standards while a "4" is considered advanced or meeting grade-level standards with a high level of excellence.

4. Extra credit is not applicable but extension or alternative assignments/assessments may be offered to show proficiency or advanced proficiency

5. Students are given timely feedback and reteach/relearn/reassessment opportunities (Proficiency Prescriptions) are provided to promote proficiency of the standards.



September 8, 2011  Best Practices submitted by Jill Kent-Wohlrab, River Springs Middle School

Are you using any of Page Keeley’s ideas (below)

 Justified True or False Statements


Justified T/F Statements                               
Statement       T       F       Why I (We)Think So     






     The Interest Scale. 

The Interest Scale is a way to gauge student interest in the topic being taught.  The technique uses a chart with a marked scale in which students place sticky notes on a scale of low to high to indicate their level of interest in the topic being studied.

You can use this strategy before or during instruction.  The strategy promotes engagement by showing students that you value their interest level.  It can also help to identify particular students or groups of student who may be disengaged and need differentiated strategies for motivating and interesting them.




Students need to understand that expressing a lack of interest does not mean that the content will be changed or that it is not important to learn.   This strategy can provide feedback to the teacher to make the content more relevant to the students.    JKW 2010                     


 Annotated Student Drawings. 

If you will try to incorporate these strategies into your teaching,  as time goes by, you will build a teacher’s tool belt of formative assessment ideas from which to choose while doing curriculum planning!  


“If a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps drawing and visualizing can help science students enhance their learning potential” (NSTA, 2006.)

Annotated student drawings are student-made, labeled illustrations that visually represent and describe students’ thinking about a scientific concept.

Students:  access their prior knowledge- visually represent their thinking minimally use words- may reveal gaps or misconceptions 
can use initial drawings for self-assessment by being allowed 

to modify, if necessary, at the end of the unit

Teachers: may select drawings that can be used as additional 

 support for understanding-
may use initial drawings for student reflection at the end of the unit- assign for completion within the classroom to be sure that students don’t access information from other sources- be sure to assess without praising artistic talent.