Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - NLU Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Jack Denny

Second Advisor

Norman Weston

Third Advisor

Elizabeth McDonald


This change leadership plan was designed to assist a suburban middle school transition from a traditional grading and assessment system to a standards-based system. Using Wagner’s (2008) change leadership model, the plan includes an AS-IS assessment and a TO-BE vision to analyze the school’s context, culture, conditions, and competencies (Wagner’s 4 Cs) that need to be considered when planning for any major organizational change. The plan includes a review of relevant literature related to standards-based grading and an analysis of survey and interview data collected on students’ and teachers’ perceptions on the school’s current grading practices. Survey findings reveal that traditional grading practices fall short in meeting the needs of all students. Both teachers and students agree that: the purpose of grading and assessment should be to provide meaningful feedback on a student’s learning; behavior should be reported independent of student learning; and assessments should be purposeful, not busy work, and designed to improve student learning. Student interview themes included: allowing more student self-assessment; opportunities to redo and refine homework without penalty; and more closely connecting homework assignments and assessments with classroom instruction. Teacher interview themes noted: the inability of letter grades to accurately measure student learning; frustration with a lack of common assessments across the district; and the need for high quality professional development in transitioning to a standards-based assessment system. Strategies and actions recommended for making the transition include: educating the school community on standards-based grading; aligning all assessments to standards; creation of common assessments; and developing a standards-based report card.