Skip Navigation

Standards-Referenced LEarning

In the 2018-2019 school year, our school transitioned to a Dual Language Immersion School model, and we also implemented some changes to how we communicate about student learning. Specifically, the grade book you view in FACTs and the report cards we send home digitally are standards-referenced.

What is standards-referenced?
Standards-referenced grading means that teachers will share information about your child’s learning by using a “proficiency scale” to describe progress toward learning standards and student skills. In education, the term standards-referenced refers to instructional approaches that are aligned to learning standards —i.e., written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. In other words, standards-referenced refers to the use of learning standards to guide what gets taught and assessed in schools. Our “proficiency scale” will include the following terms: 

4 - Exceeds grade level standard. The student has demonstrated proficiency and can apply knowledge above and beyond the grade level standard.

3 - Meets grade-level standards. The student has mastered the grade level standard.

2 - Progressing toward grade level standard. The student is able to demonstrate some understanding but lacks proficiency in key areas.

1 - Not meeting grade-level standards at this time. The student has difficulty demonstrating understanding and needs support to complete key tasks.

NA - Not assessed at this time.

What are standards?
Standards are statements about what students should know & be able to do at each grade level. The Archdioceses of Portland  posts adopted standards at the following site:

How is standards-referenced grading different than traditional grading?
Traditionally, many elements are combined to determine your child’s grade – test scores, quizzes, completed homework, classroom participation, coming to school on time, extra credit – then, the average of the quarter or semester’s work equates to a percentage for a grade.

Standards-referenced grading separates those elements. Parents will be able to see specifically if their child needs help with an academic concept or if he or she can’t remember to turn in homework. Standards-referenced grading measures a student’s mastery of grade-level standards by prioritizing the most recent, consistent level of performance.

What are the advantages of SRG?
Improved communication and additional feedback for parents, students, and teachers - parents and students will see areas of academic strength and weaknesses in the grade book rather than seeing a test score or homework assignment and wondering what the next steps might be. Teachers will know which standards they need to re-teach. Students will know which standards they need additional learning opportunities and/or practice.

How is this different compared to the way students were previously assessed in elementary school?
Students will continue to have assessments as they have in the past. However, assessments now focus on certain standards/targets, and students know where they are in their progression of learning the target.

Why are we changing?
Our goal is to accurately measure student mastery of learning standards by implementing a comprehensive assessment and grading system that aligns with best practices in education.

What will be different?
Report cards will include much more specific information about what students are learning in each content area. The “proficiency scale” terms will replace our currently used letter grades and codes. Our school does not use extrinsic motivation such as Honor roll, Principals List, etc. Homework will be used as practice and not for a grade. 

Who else is using this system?
A few of the schools in the archdiocese of Portland are using this system. Beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, six schools (Cohort 1) will participate in an Archdiocesan Standards-Referenced Grading Report Card pilot. Data will be used along with the other Cohort 1 schools to inform improvements, training, and communication with all stakeholders. The schools in Cohort 1 are. St. Vincent de Paul Dual Language Immersion School, Holy Trinity, Regis-St. Mary, O'Hara Catholic School, Queen of Peace, and St. Cecilia. 

All elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Portland are transitioning to a Standards-Referenced Grading (SRG) system by the 2024-2025 school year.  For the past three years, teacher teams and school leadership across the Archdiocese of Portland have prioritized standards, developed proficiency scales, and trained in research-based best practices for instruction and assessment.

Why was work ethics removed from grading standards?
We believe behavior/work habits are so important we are separating them from the academic score. This ensures our academic scores truly reflect what students know and can do academically. This also provides a way for specific, valuable feedback to be given for behavior/work habits. At the secondary level, these types of standards/targets are called Employability Skills. 

Will all teachers grade the same?
Teachers will use both obtrusive (written) and unobtrusive (verbal, informal, etc.) assessments.  The expectations for meeting mastery of the standards will be the same; however, the way teachers assess may differ.

How do we make sure all students are meeting their grade level if each student has different goals by the end of the year?
All students in a grade level have grade-level standards. The goal for all students is to meet these standards by the end of the year.

Will homework be graded?
In this system, homework is not part of the academic grade.  However, it can be scored using the behavior/work habit targets.

How many data points will teachers use to determine scores?
Teachers will collect data that becomes part of a body of evidence for evaluating student progress and growth. The amount of data collected/needed will depend on the student and the standard.

Will all teachers grade the same? Subjective or objective, based on how they feel the child is doing vs. how another teacher feels the child is doing?
All assessments should be aligned to a standard and a proficiency scale. This will provide a common language when determining student mastery of standards. Professional judgment will still be needed when determining where a student is in their progression of learning.

How can I help my child perform at home to get him more prepared to perform at a 4.0 level?
Content will be taught at the foundational level (2.0) and mastery level (3.0). Anything a student does that is above and beyond the standard might be considered at the 4.0 level. Focusing first on mastery of the standards is key.

How will I know prior to the end-of-the-year report if my child is falling behind?
Teachers will continue to monitor students that may be struggling or need enrichment and communicate specific needs with parents. Progress reports are available quarterly. Reports can be viewed in FACTs. Contact your student's school for assistance.

How is one classroom teacher supposed to equitably keep track of each student?
Keeping track of student progress is not new.  It has always been an expectation we have.  With scales, it will be a streamlined process.

Will students be retained if they have not mastered a certain % of the content in their current grade?
No. We are standards-referenced, not standards-based. In our system, students continue to progress to the next grade level. Research has shown that retention is not an effective practice. Our time and energy are better spent working to support students throughout the school year providing quality core instruction and enrichment/intervention courses.

Will Art & Music be part of this?
Yes.  All music, physical education, and art courses will have targets, and scales & students will be able to set goals in each class based on the proficiency scales.

Are the learning standards available online?  If so, where?  For all grades?
Yes. Please visit to view documents listing the standards for each grade level.

How will this affect students with special needs?
Students continue to receive the support they have had previously.  Students will continue to work on their identified goals.  All students will use proficiency scales. Individualized Learning Plans will be supported and encouraged for students in need. 

Is this less stressful for students?
Yes. In this system, students know what they need to learn and have ownership of their learning when they set goals and track their own progress.

How can I learn more?
If you would like to read more, please visit the web article “Standards-Based Grading: What Parents Need to Know” posted on the School Family website at

Early this school year, our superintendents shared a wealth of information focused on Standards-Referenced Grading. The information can be accessed by viewing this link:

Rick Wormeli is one of the very first Nationally Board Certified teachers in America.  He has used his 39 years of teaching experience to help educators around the world implement best practices around student learning and growth.