Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


Standards-based Grading: The Effect of Common Grading Criteria on Academic Growth

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Rachel Vannatta Reinhart (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Other)

Third Advisor

Chris Willis (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Patrick Pauken (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Todd Cramer (Committee Member)


Points-driven grading systems are prolific and persistent in American K-12 education, despite research indicating their gender and racial bias in implementation (Cornwell, Mustard & Van Parys, 2013), their lack of accuracy in representing student achievement (Allen, 2005), and their negative effect on learning (Klapp, 2015). Research indicates while teachers are open to changing their practice, they want assurance that changes will lead to improved outcomes for their students (Millard, 2016). The purpose of the study was to determine whether standards-based grading rubrics developed through a shared leadership approach significantly increased academic growth and the percentage of students demonstrating acceptable levels of growth in early literacy, reading, and math skill development. Participants in the causal-comparative post-hoc study were comprised of kindergarten through grade two students in two Midwestern public school districts, one of which issued standards-based grades while the other issued grades under a points-driven grading system. Academic growth data in the form of student growth percentiles were gathered using STAR¿ assessments, an online assessment tool used in both districts to measure achievement and growth. Results indicated no effect for rubric implementation in any of the three subject areas when comparing the two districts’ growth scores; nor was there a significant difference in the percentage of students demonstrating acceptable growth in reading or math. However, a significantly higher percentage of students did demonstrate acceptable growth in early literacy skills after standards-based grading rubrics were implemented. The researcher concluded that teacher involvement in the development of the rubrics, as well as their use of the rubrics for instructional purposes could have mediated the effect of the tools’ use.