Journal of Educational Leadership in Action


The purpose of this study was to describe the barriers and challenges school leaders face as they implement a standards-based grading (SBG) system. The researchers used a multiple case study methodology to investigate how key school leaders described their implementation journey at three schools that differed in size, demographics, and location. Purposeful sampling was used to identify key administrators at three different schools who were in the process of implementing a SBG system. Data were collected primarily via semi-structured interviews. In the analysis, researchers used three phases: horizontalization, thematizing, and textural-structural synthesis. Each of the three schools had very different implementation stories. Barriers in the process included: student information and grading systems, parents/community members, the tradition of grading and fear of the unknown, and the implementation dip. This study suggests that implementation of SBG must be purposeful and well communicated. That is, in order to enhance the likelihood of success, an intentional plan with a reasonable timeline, ongoing professional development and collaboration, and effective two-way communication about the purpose of grading is needed. Also maintaining A-through-F final grades—even as they simultaneously implement more progressive assessment and reporting strategies—is often seen as a necessary concession. Finally, the authors explicate SBG’s relationship to competency-based education and professional learning communities (PLCs).

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.