District Administration December2017 - 41

ing zero can leave students so discouraged
they stop trying, ultimately increasing
course failures and dropout rates. "Those
are really counterproductive grading
practices," says Michael Anderson, area
administrator of schools in the Jordan
School District (52,000 students), in
suburban Salt Lake City. The system has
launched grading reforms-including
permitting do-overs on failed assessments
and omitting homework from the calculation of course grades-in its 10 middle
schools. "You never want to get to the
point where the student feels like there's
no hope and they're going to give up on
learning," Anderson says.
Demand more of students
and educators
Faced with the inaccuracy of traditional
grading practices, schools are trying new
approaches. The relatively straightforward include setting the bottom of the
grading scale at 50; more far-reaching
changes include calculating course grades
by giving extra weight to more recent
grades, instead of by simply averaging
marks across a semester.
To ensure that grades for academic
achievement reflect only subject-matter
knowledge, some schools now give separate marks for behaviors such as punctuality, courtesy, meeting deadlines and
even compliance with anti-plagiarism
rules. Schools revising grading policies
may also encourage teachers to let students redo inadequate work until they
get it right. Although such approaches are
sometimes called "no-fail grading," educators say that term is misleading: Students who don't produce acceptable work
don't earn credit, although report cards
may show incompletes instead of Fs.
Rather than coddling students, as critics sometimes claim, such approaches
demand more of them, and more of their
teachers, who must commit to offering
whatever help students need to master
academic content, say grading-reform
advocates like Feldman.
www.DistrictAdministration.com

"Giving a kid a zero takes the kid off
the hook, and it takes the teacher off the
hook," says Darwin Lehmann, superintendent of rural Iowa's Forest City Community School District, which is phasing in grading reforms in its middle and

high school. "The consequence for a zero
should be doing the work."
Whether grading reform by itself
improves student achievement isn't clear.
"There's really no reason why it would,
because we're not changing instruction

More accurate marks
Grading reform, aimed at making
the marks students earn into more
precise and accurate reports of their
academic proficiency, encompasses
a number of different approaches:

* Separating performance from behavior: In the Issaquah School District,
southeast of Seattle (20,000 students),
students can get separate grades for
academic performance and for "success indicators" such as work habits,
citizenship and collaboration.
Parents are "actually getting
more information than they used to,
because they used to get a single
academic grade, and a parent never
really knew what the A stood for,"
says Emilie Hard, Issaquah's assistant superintendent of teaching and
learning services. "Is that because
my student knows it all? Or is it
because my student does all his or
her homework?"
* Keeping homework off the scoreboard: The 10 middle schools in
the Jordan School District (52,000
students) in suburban Salt Lake City
are phasing in grading changes that
include not factoring homework
marks into the final course grade,
which is based solely on assessments such as tests, papers, labs
and projects. "Homework is practice,
and if you go to most scrimmages or
practices, we don't practice with the
scoreboard on," says Michael Anderson, area administrator of schools in

Jordan. "The assessments are the
games. That's where we're scoring."
* Permitting do-overs: At the high
school in the Forest City Community
School District in rural northern
Iowa, students who fail a test can
attend a special study hall for
additional instruction and then try
again-ideally, by tackling a new
assessment that addresses only
those topics students are still struggling with, Principal Ken Baker says.
"Not all kids learn at the same
time, and we shouldn't be held as
tightly to a time frame that every kid
needs to have that skill developed
by this date, and after that date we
don't care," Baker says. "We do
care, and we want our kids to continue to build skill."
* Abandoning averages: Instead
of calculating final course grades
by averaging the marks for every
assignment, some schools now give
extra weight to grades earned later
in a marking period, after a student
has grasped the lesson.
"It's unfair to sort kids as far as
'Well, you took only one week to
master it and I took two, so you get
an A and I get a C,' because you still
know the exact same things," says
Catherine E. Vannatter, curriculum
and instructional coach at Bryan
Station High School in Lexington,
Kentucky.

December 2017 41


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration December2017

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