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Sunnyvale School District to Implement Common Core State Standards & Standards-Based Grading for all Students

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Most parents in the district have seen a Standards-Based Report Card but Sunnyvale School District’s Standards-Based Report Card is about to change, as the district begins to implement Common Core State Standards.

In a Standards-Based Report Card, instead of grades A, B, C, D, and F, students receive 4, 3, 2, and 1 as grades, indicating different levels of proficiencies. While a letter grade represents the student’s cumulative achievement for each subject at the end of a grading period, Standards-Based Grading (SBG) breaks down each subject into key areas or standards students at that grade-level should master. For instance, for kindergarteners, there is a math standard of “Write numbers from 0 to 20”. When parents see a “2” on this particular standard, they know that their child is “approaching proficiency” and can help their child work on writing numbers from 0 to 20 at home.

Sunnyvale School District has used Standards-Based Report Card for Kindergarten to 5th Grade since 2006, and in 6th Grade starting in 2008. In the fall of 2013, 7th and 8th Grade students will also receive Standards-Based Report Cards. Standards-Based Grading helps both parents and students see the students’ weaknesses and strengths in key areas for each subject so students know what they have mastered and what they still need to work on. Students work toward proficiency in standards that have not been mastered.

From 2007 to 2012, Sunnyvale School District’s API has increased from 776 to 830, with the most significant gains in Kindergarten through 6th Grade. The district will continue to monitor student learning and hopes to see more improvement with Standards-Based Grading for all grade levels.

New in Fall 2013 is a 5-point Standards-Based Grading rubric, where 5 is Advanced Proficiency (student demonstrates a deep and broad understanding of the ideas taught during class) and 1 is Below Proficiency (student demonstrates limited understanding of the basic ideas). Also new and more consequential will be the implementation of California Common Core State Standards which California adopted on August 2, 2010, with California additions to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). A work group commissioned by governors of over 40 states worked together to write the CCSS, which is now adopted by 45 states, and the District of Columbia.

The new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will provide consistency and equity for all students, regardless of where they reside. Standards-Based Grading will give specific feedback and focus on student learning. Investment in developing instructional material will be more cost effective and more efficient as school districts across many states will be using and sharing the same resources. There will be more collaboration opportunities among teachers in states that have adopted the CCSS. These standards will better-prepare our students for college and careers in the 21st century.

Kate Jamentz, Academic Deputy Superintendent of Fremont Union High School District, applauds the efforts of K-8 districts in adopting Standards-Based Grading (SBG) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) because this system emphasizes student learning more than grades, a practice that supports student success in high school. With the new California CCSS, there will be more non-fiction material where literacy standards are imbedded in science and social studies (as well as Language Arts). Students will need to understand what they read instead of merely looking for the right keywords for answers. In Math, more time will be spent on fewer topics so that students can develop deeper understanding of the math concepts being taught and be able to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. CCSS in 8th Grade Math will include the number system, expressions and equations, functions, geometry, statistics, and probability. Algebra will be moved to 9th Grade.

With the new instructional standards comes a set of new assessment tools. Sunnyvale School District will be switching to Smarter Balanced Assessment in 2015, replacing the California Standards Tests (CST). The last administration of the CST will be in the Spring of 2014.

Detailed information on Common Core State Standards may be found at:
Detailed information on California Common Core State Standards may be found at:

Claire Castagna, Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum/Instruction/Assessment, explained the district’s plans on assessing all students on a 5-point Standards-Based Grading, in accordance to the district’s implementation of California’s Common Core State Standards. Her presentations, attended by a small but enthusiastic group of parents, administrators and teachers, were held on February 5 and 6, at Bishop Elementary School and Cumberland Elementary School, respectively. Claire’s Powerpoint presentation is on the district website at

Article by Nina Wong-Dobkin

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