This year I have been exploring Standards Based Grading (SBG). When planning for the semester I decided to use the Power Law Mastery Calculation and the online gradebook for my 5 dual enrollment HIS201: American History to 1877 class. After a full semester of using the SBG system there were some pros and cons. In the coming semester I am trying to plan a scheme that will keep the positives and alter the negatives.


  • The overall concept of using grades to create a narrative of student learning.
  • Implemented well SBG should promote a growth mindset among the students.
  • Growth Mindset is fostered through better feedback. This can be done with conferencing or comments on assignments.
  • The feedback is better because it is assessed based on clear rubrics designed around skills based standards.


  • Too many categories. Content acquisition is important in my survey course and we have 6 indicators in 2 standards that need to be understood in about 30 days. Then there are also 6 or so skills based standards. SBG is great for the skills based standards but didn’t work well for content knowledge demonstration.
  • Too many data points needed. I was excited about SBG because I thought it meant less grading but in order for Power Law Calculations to be meaningful there needed to be at least 3 (preferably more) data points. With 18 or so standards and only 30 or so class meetings this meant collecting more than 1 data point per class.
  • Too complicated and mathematical. My biggest complaint with a traditional gradebook is that weighted categories are both too complicated and rely too much on math formulas. This renders most assignments meaningless and obfuscates the actual grading weight.

XP Grading PROS:

  • Simple for students and teachers. It usually takes about 1 unit for students to understand and appreciate XP Grading. As the XP numbers add up the and levels are locked in. For teachers the system is uncomfortable at first but that’s because it is new and different. With all XP being equal weighting assignments becomes easier and there is no need for extra credit.
  • Allows multiple paths to “victory” so students can achieve the score they want. Again, because all XP is equal it is much easier to add ‘side quests’, create personalized and differentiated lessons, or even completely different narrative paths. As long as they are demonstrating their knowledge the experience is never lost!
  • XP number is easy to understand. I create benchmarks students need to reach so they always know where they stand in the class.
  • No zeros.

XP Grading CONS:

  • Grinding in lower thinking categories. This is my biggest issue with XP Grading and the thing I am most interested in overcoming. Read more here in my Problems with Grinding Post.

So… How can I merge these two systems together in order to make a more perfect grading system? My goal is to keep the feedback loops from both systems that tell a solid grade narrative, maintain the Growth Mentality structures from SBG while utilizing the flexibility the XP Grading system allows. Over the next few posts I will be exploring how I intend to go about this.