What is Skills Based Reporting

In the traditional classroom, student work over the course of a nine-week term is graded and averaged together, resulting in one letter grade that is reported out at the end of the term for each course. Assignments that are given at the beginning of the learning process carry just as much weight in the end as when students have been given an opportunity to truly learn the material and demonstrate knowledge. A traditional grading system also overemphasizes a 0 in the gradebook when determining a final grade. Under a grading scale where a 94% is an A, a student must earn 9 straight 100%’s in order to overcome a single 0 and move their grade to a B. Even though they have demonstrated perfection nine times in a row, according to the gradebook, that student has only achieved the second highest level of achievement.

A skills based reporting system eliminates averaging work over the course of time to determine the final mark on a student’s report card. Student progress will be reported out as a 1 (beginning skill attainment), 2 (approaching skill attainment), 3 (skill attainment), or a 4 (advanced skill demonstration). When a student has the number 1-4 displayed on a progress report or a report card that indicates that is where the student is currently at in their learning progress. Students will be given multiple opportunities once a skill is introduced to demonstrate that they have attained the skill through classroom activities, assignments, and assessments. Each class has a set of skills that the teachers have identified are essential for their students to master in order to show appropriate growth within their subject.

Why Did Olympia Middle School Make This Transition

Skills based reporting is a system designed to promote ultimate student ownership of learning. In 2012 Dr. John Hattie published a book titled Visible Learning for Teachings: Maximizing Impact on Learning in which he shared his results of years of research that sought to find out what had the most profound impact on student learning. His research team was able to determine that student ownership of learning has the greatest impact on student achievement.

Dr. Hattie found that when students truly own their own learning, they could make three years of growth within a single school year. When students own their learning, they know what it is that they are learning, why they are learning it, and what adjustments they need to make to improve the learning process. In order to best facilitate student ownership of learning, Olympia Middle School employs a skills based reporting system.

Along with student ownership of learning, grading practices and principles are an essential part of the student experience. The staff at Olympia Middle School believes the following points about grading and scoring can be most effectively achieved in a skills based reporting environment.

  • The primary goal of grading and scoring is communication to students, parents, and teachers.
  • Grading and scoring are evaluations of what a student knows and are able to do based on clearly established skills.
  • Grading and scoring should be timely, accurate, specific, and fair.
  • Grading and scoring are key in the instructional process so that teachers and parents can provide the appropriate support.
  • Grading and scoring need to provide information and evidence that students can use for self-evaluation.

Videos on Skills Based Reporting

Aligning Skills
Aligning Skills

Changes in Assessment
Changes in Assessment

Determining Skill Scores
Determining Skill Scores


Reading Family Access
Reading Family Access

Student Reassessment Process
Student Reassessment Process

What does this look like for my student?

In a typical classroom, the teacher will begin the lesson with a target (learning outcome or objective) that they will share with students, letting them know exactly what the main point of the lesson is. The activities and teaching is aligned with this target and during the lesson the students should be able to answer what they are learning and why they are learning the skill. The teacher’s target will be aligned to the skills that are on the report card, thus allowing the teacher multiple opportunities to determine the student’s true performance level of the skill.

Classroom assignments and assessments will continue to be graded and students will know what they do correctly, but there will no longer be the need to calculate a percentage to put on the returned homework. Instead, there will be an increased focus on providing the students with specific feedback aligned to the skill that the teacher is working with the students on mastering. When the student knows what the target is, completes an assignment aligned to that skill, and the teacher provides specific feedback in relation to that skill, research has proven that there will be an increase in student achievement because the student knows exactly what they need to do to show growth.

Major assignments and assessments will be accompanied with a rubric that specifically states what a student needs to be able to do in order to earn a 4, 3, 2, or a 1. The teachers will spend time reviewing this information before the students begin the activity so they know exactly what is expected of them before they begin the activity. Then, as the learning process unfolds, the student is able to ask the necessary questions in order to more successfully complete the activity than if they did not know what was expected of them.

The meaning of a 4, 3, 2, or a 1

4Advanced Skill DemonstrationThe student demonstrates a complete and in-depth mastery of the content and is able to apply the knowledge and skills to additional areas of learning.
3Skill AttainmentThe student demonstrates an understanding of content.
2Approaching Skill AttainmentThe student is beginning to demonstrate a basic understanding of the required skills and concepts.
1Beginning Skill AttainmentThe student does not demonstrate progress towards meeting the expectations of required content.

Student Friendly Descriptors

4- I understand the information and can explain it to others

3- I understand the information

2- I need some help, but with help, I am able to show I understand it

1-I need a lot of help from my teacher to understand the information

To provide an example, let’s examine one of the report card skills for 8th Grade Social Studies: “Analyze connections among events through history”. When teaching students how to analyze connections among events, the 8th Grade Social Studies teacher will teach the students the important concept of precedent in the United States. (Precedent is using previous events to make a decision on an event that is currently going on) On an assessment the student is asked to explain the importance and implications of a Supreme Court ruling. Below are examples of suitable responses for each performance level:

4- The student can accurately explain the importance of the ruling, the implication of the decision, and how it can impact the future. The student also explains previous Supreme Court rulings and how the court used these when coming to this decision. The student correctly uses examples of cases from previous class periods that has impacted the current case that the student is being assessed on.

3- The student accurately explains the importance and implications of the Supreme Court ruling.

2- The student identifies some of the key concepts of the ruling, but fails to mention future implications of the ruling.

1-The student is unable to explain the importance or the implication of the Supreme Court ruling.

How were the skills selected that my student will be assessed on?

Throughout the 2015-2016 school year, teachers at Olympia Middle School worked together to identify the most essential skills to master in order to show appropriate growth within their subject and grade level. The teachers read several professional articles on this topic, participated in a book study on the book Answers to Essential Questions About Standards, Assessments, Grading, & Reporting by Thomas Guskey and Lee Ann Jung, and several teachers attended professional development on this topic to prepare for this transition. Through all of this training, the staff agreed that the most effective way to communicate student progress would be to identify anywhere from three to eight skills over the course of a year. This will keep the focus narrow and allow the teachers to dig deeper with the essential skills for their classes.

How will parents truly know what each skill measures?

All teachers have developed a document breaking each skill down in two ways; what students need to know and what students need to be able to do in order to show understanding of each skill. These tables are available on the OMS website and it is suggested that when report cards come out, parents and students review these while looking at the performance level that is reported on the report card. This will provide parents an excellent opportunity to talk to their student about what they are learning in class and will have specific examples of what the teachers are doing in each class. Below is an example of an 8th Grade Science breakdown for the skill Develop and Use Models:

Skill: Develop and Use Models

What students should know:What students should be able to do:
  • Describe atomic particles and the differences between each
  • Model how atoms bond to form compounds and molecules
  • Model the effects of a chemical reaction on various substances

  • Describe how humans create materials that impact society from natural resources/elements
  • Use a model to show the Law of Conservation of Mass in a chemical reaction
  • Use a model that shows how temperature affects substances

The difference between formative and summative assessments

Formative assessments are also known as assessments for learning and take place during the learning process. Teachers will use these results to help inform their instruction and these can take place either orally, on paper, or by utilizing technology, amongst other methods. Ideally, these take place several times throughout the learning process and students should use these results to help them focus on what they need to improve upon while still learning about the topic that they were assessed on.

Summative assessments are also known as assessments of learning and these typically take place at the end of a unit of instruction. End of the chapter tests are examples of summative assessments. In a traditional classroom, everything a student does is looked at together and there is one score reported back to the student, even though there may be several skills covered on the assessment. In a skills based reporting environment, the student will receive feedback and a rating on the different skills that they are assessed on. If a student performs poorly on a summative assessment, there are specific retake procedures that are explained below.

Reassessment procedures

Students are given one opportunity to reassess on a summative assessment. The following guidelines are applied to every summative assessment:

  • Students earning a 1 on a major assessment will be required to go to their teacher for reteaching and will reassess on the skill(s) they earned a 1 on
  • Students earning a 2 on a major assessment will be encouraged to go to their teacher for reteaching and will be allowed to reassess on the skill(s) they earned a 2 on
  • Students earning a 3 on a major assessment will be allowed to set up a reteaching session (although it is not required) and they will be allowed to reassess on the skill(s) they earned a 3 on

In order for a student to reassess, they must fill out the Retake/Revision form that is available to all students. This form requires students to identify the skills they would like to reassess on, set up a time to meet with the teacher for reteaching, and why the student did not perform up to their capability on the assessment. The student is also required to complete all of their formative work in order to be eligible to reassess.

The score that a student earns on the reassessment (providing it is an improvement from the previous assessment) will be the score that is reported out. There is no averaging of scores from the two assessments.

Eligibility for extra-curricular activities

The Illinois Elementary School Association requires that all schools have an eligibility policy determining which students are eligible to participate in extra-curricular activities. Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, the eligibility policy for all students at Olympia Middle School is as follows:

“Any student reported by a teacher on the weekly eligibility as having a 1.49 or lower as an average of their skills in any subject for the grading period will be ineligible to participate in all interscholastic activities for the following week. (Monday - Saturday) Any student who is ineligible in any given subject for three consecutive weeks may be dropped from that activity.”

For example, in 6th Grade English 1 the skills that the teachers will be assessing throughout the year are:

  • Use examples from the text to support my ideas.
  • Identify and apply elements of a text.
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text.
  • Identify how an author has organized the text.
  • Compare/contrast different forms/versions of text.

These skills will be introduced and assessed throughout the year so there will not be a “score” associated with each skill the first time eligibility is taken. The first scenario is an example of a student that would be eligible based on the skills that were assessed:

Scenario 1 Student Rating
Use examples from the text to support my ideas. 2
Identify and apply elements of a text. 1

The student is making progress with one skill, and still needs help with the second skill. The average of these two skills is a 1.5, so the student is eligible for the following week’s activities.

The next scenario would be after another skill is introduced. The teacher has introduced the skill, administered some formative and summative assessments, and has now given the student the following ratings:

Scenario 2 Student Rating
Use examples from the text to support my ideas. 2
Identify and apply elements of a text. 1
Compare/contrast different forms/versions of text. 1

The student in scenario 2 now has an average of 1.333, thus making them ineligible. Based on their academic performance, they need to spend more time outside of the classroom working on their academics.

Based on the feedback that the teacher gives to the student, the student focuses on the skill of “Identify and apply elements of a text”, goes in for reteaching during Study Hall times, and reassess on a summative assessment. Due to the work that the student puts in, they are now able to demonstrate that they understand the content and their new rating is now a 3. If everything else remains unchanged when eligibility is run again, the new report would be represented by Scenario 3, which is below.

Scenario 3 Student Rating
Use examples from the text to support my ideas. 2
Identify and apply elements of a text. 3
Compare/contrast different forms/versions of text. 1
The student now has an average of a 2, thus regaining their eligibility.

Honor Roll

The staff and administration believe it is important that there be recognition for academic achievement and/or positive behaviors. With this idea in mind, periodic assemblies/activities will be planned for students. A recognition system for academic achievement for students encourages students to work hard and achieve recognition from their scholastic pursuits. The emphasis will be on continuous improvement for students to reach their goal.

Students attaining the Honor Roll will be recognized at an awards ceremony at the conclusion of the school year. Students earning all 3’s and 4’s on their Skills in their Core classes will be honored at the Honor Roll Recognition as making High Honor Roll. Students that earn all 3’s and 4’s with no more than one 2 in any class will be honored as making the Honor Roll.

Spartan Skills- Respect, Responsibility, Collaboration, Perseverance, and Self-Advocacy

This year OMS teachers will be assessing students on five essential skills for learning and success. Those skills are respect, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration, and self-advocacy. At the end of every nine week grading period, these skills will be reported based on the following metrics: + which indicates the student demonstrates this skill most of the time, ^ which indicates the student demonstrates the skill some of the time, and / which indicates the student rarely demonstrates the skill. Each teacher will report on these five skills to parents at the end of every nine week grading period throughout the year.

Some examples for each of the skills are listed below:


  • I can treat others with kindness.
  • I can follow rules.
  • I can show compassion


  • I complete my assignments in a timely manner.
  • I can follow directions the first time.
  • I am on time.
  • I am prepared for learning.
  • I use feedback to improve my learning


  • I can ask for help when needed.
  • I use mistakes to help me learn.
  • I can seek resources for learning.
  • I challenge myself and take risks.
  • I can take ownership of my learning.


  • I never give up.
  • I do my best.
  • I overcome adversity.
  • I can face all challenges with confidence.


  • I can work in a team with others.
  • I can communicate with others to solve problems.
  • I can encourage others to fulfill their potential.

Additional Information about Skills Based Reporting

There are several places where you can find more information relating to Skills Based Reporting, however much of what is available online is found under a search of Standards Based Grading. The general idea of Skills Based Reporting is similar to Standards Based Grading, but in a Skills Based Reporting environment we are teaching our students skills that are essential to be able to be successful with their next steps. Our teachers have identified the skills based on what they teach as opposed to taking pre-designed standards that students work towards.

Two experts in the field that have done a lot of research into this topic are Dr. Thomas Guskey and Rick Wormeli.

The Association for School Curriculum and Development (ASCD) published an article titled “Seven Reasons for Standards Based Grading” that was written by Patricia L. Scriffiny. A search on Google will give you the full text of the article, which is an excellent resource for the thought behind utilizing skills based reporting.

If you prefer watching videos, complete a search on Google for “Rick Wormeli Standards Based Grading” and you will find videos about the following topics: the 100 point scale vs. a 4 point scale, late work policies and procedures, and reassessment procedures.

We also encourage all parents to get in contact with their child’s teachers for any clarification about classroom practices in relation to skills based reporting.