What is Mastery-Based Learning/Standards-Based Grading?

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What is Standard-Based Grading?

Standard based grading is grading to a specific standard that both the teacher, the student and the parent know and understand- using benchmarks as indicators (SHAPEAmerica National Standards).

  • instead of scoring for points correct (100%), teachers look for students understanding of skills/concepts (ES- exceeds standards, MS- meets standards, PS- progressing towards standards, LP- limited progress).
  • there is no failing! Students can keep trying until they master a skill. First Attempt In Learning”
  • SBG allows students to track their growth and then describe their strengths/weaknesses using evidence in their portfolios.

What is the difference between a traditional class and a mastery based learning class?

** The biggest difference is that the learning is personalized and the students own their own learning by being responsible for demonstrating evidence of their learning!**

Traditional Educational System:

  • 60% to pass
  • Cumulative Grade
  • Homework, Changing for PE, Behavior, Effort (with no exact indicator) are put in the grade. Those are “behaviors” and do not measure a child’s Physical Education understanding/demonstration of PE skills/concepts.
  • Traditional PE Curriculum:–  The teacher chooses a variety of activities to teach and then links a standard to the activity.
    • Teachers teach students the skills necessary to play volleyball, soccer, tennis, dance, or swim, and the only goal is for students to be able to play or perform the activity.
    • Activities are selected because they are played by one gender(boys wrestled and girls danced)or are commonly played in a certain region (skiing is common in Vermont).
    • Teachers are competent in the sport or activity.
    • Teachers enjoy teaching the unit.
    • The unit is a tradition (basketball).

    ** No clear outcome purpose**

Standard-Based Grading System:

– The student use evidence to support their claims.

– The focus is on mastering skills (standards). The “grade” is reported as “ES, MS, PS, LP” and the only part of the grade are the actual Physical Education concepts and skills (“behaviors” such as changing, homework, sportsmanship, attitude, behavior, etc- do not count towards the grade).

  • Behaviors are measured, but separately, in what our district calls “Habits of Scholarship” (will be shared in a later post).

– Assessments & Feedback helps teachers/students stay focused on the goals of the class, align all parts of the curriculum to the learning target and gives specific, actionable feedback about strengths and weaknesses.

SBG PE Curriculum 

A SBG curriculum is created in reverse from a traditional curriculum. The standards and all of the indicators are the first part of the curriculum map and the activities are the last part of the curriculum map.

  • 1. Standards; skills and knowledge that students should demonstrate.
  • 2. Performance- Based Assessments/Rubrics/Evidence of Meeting Standards
  • 3. Activities/Learning Outcomes


Later posts will show the tracking of student learning through the use of student portfolios in the gym.


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