In standards-based grading, one of the key ideas is that students should be graded solely on whether they’ve mastered, or learned, the particular standard, or competency they’re working on, rather than on how well they conform to a system.
Since students learn at different paces (depending on the particular concepts they’re working on) and in different ways, in order for standards-based grading to work, we must have differentiated instruction. I see differentiated instruction as giving each student what they need, when they need it, and how they need it in order for them to be successful in learning the particular standard they’re currently working on.
Without differentiated instruction we have what most of us grew up with – a teacher explaining the same lesson to a room of 30 students all at the same time – even though a third of us might already have mastered that concept and a third of us might be totally lost because we don’t yet fully understand a prerequisite concept.
Here’s a great video about this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abRtYNkmBao
(This video happens to be from newclassrooms.org, but it’s just about differentiation and not necessarily anything specific to their work).
We need to quit thinking of a classroom as a place where a teacher stands at the front of the room and “teaches” to a bunch of students. We should instead think of a classroom as a bunch of students individually learning in different ways (possibly different things), who just happen to be in the same space.