Evidence, Not Tests

Evidence learning takes place of testing in new standards-based grading system implemented district wide.

Grace Hicks, Staff Member

    Point chasing is when the only goal in mind is to get the highest score. The district wants their students to stop being point chasers. Rather than worrying only about their scores, the goal is for students to learn and understand the learning targets. No matter how many attempts it takes. In this new grading system, they have installed a four-level system. It directly tells the students where they are academically for each learning target and how to improve. The students feel as if this makes it difficult because of the sudden change.

    The new system, known as standards-based grading, will allow students to retake learning targets. The goal for students is to have the ability to practice the learning target to get a better understanding. For example, with the old grading system, if a student received an 80 percent on an assignment or test, they didn’t know how to improve. Teachers hope that this will encourage better grades and motivation. The students find it more difficult to get the fours though, and as if it’s unfair that they now have to work extra to get them.

    “So we have to look at it as a partnership… Your learning and your academic success as a partnership are highly valued in this school” Vice Principal Joelle Hendrick said.

    Teachers will be using a four point scale to grade their students. The scale ensures a thorough understanding of each learning targets students continue in school. Most students know by now that a zero means you’ve shown no effort or understanding. One means you’ve shown little or no mastery, two is partial mastery, three means you’ve met the expectations, and four is going above and beyond to show advancement.

    “We have to look at it as a partnership it’s not teachers against students or the school against students. It’s a partnership. Your learning and your academic success as a partnership are highly valued in this school.” Hendrick said.

    Because students can redo their work, tests, and other assignments, the staff hopes for better grades overall. A standards-based grading system means students can take learning into their own hands. Rather than having homework over what you already know, you can pick through your practice sheets and focus on the topic you struggle with more than others. Some students feel that working extra to get a four is unfair. If they completed something ‘perfectly’ why should they receive a three rather than a four?

    “I had math work that I did by the book like step by step. It was perfect, but I still only got a three because it wasn’t, like, above and beyond even though it was like perfect it was exactly what I needed,” junior Aiden Kossen said.

    Adjusting to this new system may be difficult at first. The adjustment period, as Hendrick calls it, is different for everyone. The freshmen did this their eighth-grade year, but the rest of the students may not be used to it yet. Most students have been doing this system in their math class(es) for at least a year. Staff expects this to help quicken the adjustment period. It’s hopeful that if students use this system to its full potential that school motivation and grades will improve.

    “I just think that once we get that everybody is kind of understanding it, and that means everybody; parents, teachers, students, administration, understands it pretty much the same way,” math teacher Melanie Fender said, “It’s going to be very powerful for everybody’s learning because we’ll be able to know exactly what you need to do and what you need to learn.”

    Many students are worried that it will be harder to get straight-A’s now and affect their GPA. Since a three is equivalent to an A-minus, a four is equal to an A. Although you have to go above and beyond to get that four, it’s not impossible. It’s also good to keep in mind that any form of an A will result in the same GPA, minus or straight.

    Most of the time teachers will give students extra tasks or work questions to get the four. In other subjects like English Language Arts, you must go further in-depth for the assignment. Your work should dive deep to show you understand the subject or topic more than required. Since it is such a new system, not every teacher has their rubrics or class system figured out; so the way to receive a four will differ. Students may find this frustrating because it may impact their grades. With time, teachers will have a better understanding of the system as well as students. So, the path to getting a four will hopefully become clearer.

    “This year we’re kind of like transitioning to where we’re rewriting all of our rubrics, and adding that level in,” Fender said.

    Staff are hopeful that everyone will adjust to this system well. Their goal for the students is to give them better learning in their studies.

    “Really do your best all the time and then we can help you get better and better and better,” Hendrick said.