1A CORRELATIONAL STUDY OF STANDARDS-BASED GRADES, TRADITIONALGRADES, AND ACHIEVEMENTA doctoral dissertationbyRoberto d’ErizansToThe Graduate School of EducationIn partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree ofDoctor of EducationDr. Amy Danley, ChairDr. Elisabeth Bennet, Committee MemberDr. Lee Ann Jung, Committee MemberCollege of Professional StudiesNortheastern UniversityBoston, MassachusettsAugust 20, 2020
2Acknowledgements and DedicationI would like to thank and acknowledge Dr. Amy Danley for her guidance, support, andencouragement throughout the dissertation journey. I couldn’t have asked for a better coach, andI’m grateful for what I have learned throughout our collaboration. Dr. Danley made the processjoyful. I’m also grateful for Dr. Elisabeth Bennet and the constructive feedback she providedalong the way. This study is better because of their wise counsel.I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Lee Ann Jung, who served as an expert third readerand participant in my dissertation defense. I have a vivid memory of a car ride through the busystreets of São Paulo, where knowing the complexities I was living through in my own role as aMiddle School Principal, Dr. Jung provided inspiration and encouragement regarding mydoctoral aspirations. Similarly, I am deeply appreciative for the statistical assistance from Dr.Tom Gollery; I’m continually amazed by his mathematical prowess. Likewise, I’m grateful forDr. Jessica Parker’s guidance.This dissertation is dedicated to two individuals: Susan Butler and my husband. SusanButler is one of the most amazing and talented educators and leaders I have ever had theprivilege to count as a colleague. Her daily support provided the space for me to complete thisstudy while at the same time managing the demands of running a middle school. Likewise, I amgrateful for my husband’s support and patience, particularly through long nights of reading andweekends dedicated to writing. This dissertation is as much theirs as it is mine.
3AbstractSchools and districts worldwide are transitioning from traditional grading models to standardsbased grading (SBG) without fully understanding the effects of these models on studentachievement. The purpose of this nonexperimental correlational study was to assess the degree towhich grades assigned on a traditional report card and a standards-based report cardmathematically associated with and predicted standardized assessment scoring as measured onthe Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures for Academic Growth (NWEA-MAP) in theareas of mathematics and language arts for middle school students. Participants were comprisedof Grade 6 through Grade 8 students in a leading American school in the Middle East that hadundergone a shift from traditional grading towards standards-based grading. Data utilizedincluded traditional grades, standards-based grades, and performance on the NWEA-MAPassessment for a span of 11 years. Results suggest that grades reported through a SBG reportcard more accurately communicate student learning results than a traditional (A-F) report card.The researcher found a stronger mathematical association and predictive effect between SBG andNWEA-MAP scores than traditional grading. Knowledge generated will inform schoolsconsidering standards-based grading.Keywords: grades, grading, grading practices, standards-based grading, standards-basedreporting, NWEA, assessment correlation, and implementing standards-based grading.
4Table of ContentsAcknowledgements and Dedication . 2Abstract. 3List of Tables . 9List of Figures. 10Chapter I: Introduction to the Study . 11Background and Context . 12Statement of the Problem . 16Significance of the Research Question . 22Research Questions . 23Research Question 1 . 23Research Question 2 . 24Definition of Key Terminology . 24Conceptual Framework . 28Bloom’s Mastery Learning Theory . 30Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development . 35Standard-Based Grading Research . 36Summary: Conceptual Framework . 38Assumptions, Delimitations, and Limitations . 39Organization of the Dissertation . 41
5Chapter II: Literature Review . 42Grading Practices. 44History of Grading . 44Concerns with the Traditional 100-point, A–F System . 55Correlation of Traditional Grades to Assessments . 61Summary . 62Standards-Based Assessment, Grading, and Reporting . 62Standards-Based Approaches to Grading and Reporting . 63Implementation of SBG . 71Summary . 77Accountability . 77Accountability Movement . 78High-Stakes Standardized Testing. 80Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress Growth . 85Subgroups: High-Stakes Testing . 88Summary . 91International Schools . 92Literature Review Conclusion . 94Chapter III: Methodology . 97Research Tradition. 97
6Philosophical Paradigm . 98Research Design . 99Research Site . 101Participants and Sampling . 102Variables . 103Instrument 1: NWEA-MAP . 105Instrument 2: Report Cards—Grading Data . 106Data Collection Procedures . 107Study Timeline . 108Data Analysis. 108Preparation or Transformation of the Data . 109Statistical Techniques Utilized . 110Validity, Reliability, and Generalizability. 113Protection of Human Subjects . 116Summary. 116Chapter IV: Results . 118Foundational Analyses and Descriptive Statistics . 118Findings by Research Question . 121Research Question #1 . 121Research Question #2 . 123
7Additional Analyses . 126Summary. 132Chapter V: Findings, Implications, and Recommendations . 134Research Questions . 134Summary of the Study and Conclusions . 134Interpretation of Findings . 138Finding 1: SBG report card grades have a higher associative effect on NWEA-MAP scoresthan traditional grades in the area of mathematics and language arts (reading). 138Finding 2: The predictive effect exerted upon NWEA-MAP RIT scores in the areas ofmathematics and language arts by SBG was larger than the effect exerted by traditionalgrades. . 140Finding 3: SBG report card domains display a strong association to NWEA-MAPsubdomains. . 143Finding 4: The SBG format was favored irrespective of gender, but female studentsdisplayed a stronger associative and predictive effect than male students. . 144Findings in Relation to the Literature Review. 148Findings in Relation to the Conceptual Framework . 154Recommendations . 155Recommendations in Relation to the Research Site . 156Recommendations to Schools Considering Standards-Based Grading . 158Recommendations for Future Research . 160
8Recommendation for Future Research Based on Limitations and Delimitations . 161Reflection as a Scholar Practitioner . 162Conclusion . 164References .