More on new grading system at M.S.
News · February 08, 2013

PART I West Branch Community Schools continues to implement and tweak standards-based grading at the middle school, doing away with letter grades like A’s and B’s.

The new system uses “B” for “Beginning,” “D” for “Developing,” “S” for “Secure,” and “E” for “Exceeding.”

SBG also focuses solely on whether each pupil learns the material. It does not factor in attendance or behavior, and no longer offers extra-credit work.

While homework includes a due date, pupils are allowed to turn it in late, usually by the end of the quarter, with no penalty. Pupils are also allowed to redo homework in an attempt to improve their grade. The school district plans to expand SBG to the high school.

Parents continue to have questions about SBG, so reporter Gregory Norfleet posed some of the top questions to Superintendent Kevin Hatfield, who answers them below. To give additional context, Hatfield opened with a few paragraphs comparing traditional grading practices and SBG.

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“Most teachers will tell you they wish they had a dollar for every time a student asked, ‘Is this going to be on the test?’ The traditional grading system prioritizes ‘getting grades’ and ‘sit, get and complete,’ processes over authentic understanding and deep learning. For some students, acquiring a higher grade point average takes precedence over actual knowledge, taking more challenging classes, courses that require application of knowledge or career-oriented skills.

“We certainly can’t blame students for asking this common test question. They understand that they are not working in a competency-based, career and skill-based PK-16 learning system – yet. They understand the variability found in the traditional A, B, C, D, and F marking process. Assigning a grade in the traditional system often requires the factoring in of averages, extra-credit points, participation points, as well as attendance and behavior factors.

“Our current system does not do a good enough job of supporting students in the work of application, evaluation and higher order problem solving and critical thinking. We need to not only understand what students know, but what they can do with this knowledge.”

Q. Why was behavior part of a student’s grade before? 

A. While the origins of “marking” that includes behavior factors is not easy to identify, early grading practices utilizing the A, B, C, D, and F system would often include wording about a student’s “positive contributions” or “attitude toward learning.” These can be extremely subjective measures. Some teachers have used social-emotional components to leverage classroom management, but great teachers know that building an outstanding learning environment is about setting and modeling expectations that allow all students to learn. They appreciate strong parental support and building-wide, common language approaches that reinforce “this is how we work and treat each other if you want to be successful in our school or our class.”

Next week: Teaching behavior,

and “real world” preparations

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