Setting Standards: An Inquiry into a Novel Standards-Based Grading Policy and Its Impact on High School Student Engagement, Academic Accountability, and Follow-through

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ed.D. in Leadership for Organizations


Department of Educational Administration


Elizabeth Essex


Standards-based grading serves as a type of formative assessment in which students work towards mastery of learning objectives to complete a course. A North Texas School District has created a novel grading policy incorporating standards-based grading practices with a non-punitive, progression-focused, student-centered learning structure. Utilizing a phenomenologically informed methodology with a constructivist approach, this study explores how students are experiencing this grading policy as it relates to their engagement and academic accountability/follow-through in the classroom. Further, this study analyzes how students are perceiving their ability to achieve current and future academic success via this system. This action research takes place at one of the district’s high schools and uses qualitative measures to investigate student responses of their shared opinions, thoughts, and emotions. Five main themes emerged from the study: overall approval of the features of the system, gaps in understanding regarding the purposes of the structure, awareness of the potential promotion of negative behaviors, a desire for more reward for effort, and fear of failure regarding future-ready preparedness. Utilizing these themes, an action plan was created to modify the system and provide a framework for holistic organizational improvement.


Standards-based Grading, Non-traditional grading structures, Academic Accountability, Student Engagement, Student Achievement

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