Standards Referenced Reporting, Iowa 21st Century Employability Skills

Guest Column
Gretchen Kriegel
MCSD Curriculum & Special Education Director

     Monticello School has increased the number of teachers participating in the district’s Standards Referenced Reporting Pilot from last school year. The district has 64 percent of teaching staff engaged in the pilot, which is close to a 40 percent increase from last school year.

     With an increase in the number of pilot teachers, many students and parents new to the classrooms engaged in standards referenced reporting will see a change in how class participation, work completion, behavior, and the ability to work with peers and adults is reported.

     For this group of pilot teachers, the purpose of grading is to communicate the academic achievement of a student at a particular point in time (Guskey, 2015). Communication, in the form of grades, reflects what a student knows and can do in relation to content area learning goals as defined by the standards.

     As a part of the standards referenced reporting process, teachers will be using the Iowa 21st Century Employability Skills to separate knowledge and learning (academic achievement) from learner behaviors. When determining academic achievement, it is important to exclude behavioral factors within the academic grade. We believe appropriate learner behavior in the classroom is so important to academic success that it is necessary to assess and record these skills separately.

     Grading of student behavior in a traditional classroom inflates or deflates academic achievement. Late work penalties, for instance, artificially lower an academic grade and present a false representation of student knowledge (Guskey, 2013, p.70). Rather than penalize the academic grade, it is more accurate late work within the framework of the 21st Century Employability Skills. Improving a grade for class participation is a more accurate assessment of collaboration and discussion than academics. Interactions with peers and adults are more accurate measurements of cooperation and respect and should be assessed therein. A standards referenced grading system seeks to reduce if not eliminate these factors by recording academics and 21st Century Employability Skills separately within the grade book. Accurately reporting learning and employability skills by separating the two when reporting progress gives students, parents, and the teacher a clearer picture of how a student performs academically as well as behaviorally.

     Employability skills are utilized across the district in grades K-12. For our youngest learners in kindergarten, they are in a simplified form and increased in complexity as a student progresses through the Monticello School’s K-12 system. Employability skills are broken down into specific areas teachers record on a rubric. The levels range from Leadership Level (student demonstrates personal commitment and mastery, and encourages others by work and deed to do the same), to the Detractor Level (student is minimally able to meet classroom expectations). By utilizing a rubric, students, parents, and teachers are able to have much richer, specific dialog about student strengths and areas for improvement in academics and expected employability skills in the classroom.

     If you have questions regarding the usage of 21st Century Employability Skills in grading, please feel free to contact your child’s teacher or District Curriculum Director Gretchen Kriegel at


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