What is grading reform?
This year, MSMHS introduced a new grading system that aims to better reflect students' understanding of content. This means that behavior-based grades (such as homework assignments graded on completion) aren’t counted towards a student’s overall grade. The school’s goal is to shift from what are known as omnibus grades (compliance, behavior, learning, and understanding in one grade) to mastery grades (which solely measure student understanding of a subject.)
How did this process start?
The grading reform process was started by a group of MSMHS faculty, led by Mrs. Mann, Mr. Kuczenski, and Ms. Forshaw (who has since started working at Groton Middle School), as well as vice principal Ms. Hardison. The reform grew out of training sessions that these teachers participated in last year through the Regional Educational Service Center (RESC) Alliance.
LEARN, the managing district of MSMHS, is one of these service centers. Each of the service centers in the RESC alliance were given the goal of becoming more equitable. To meet these aims, the three teachers went through five days of grade reform training. After the training sessions, the teachers brought back the information to the rest of the faculty and administration to develop a plan for reform.
Why aren’t assignments graded on completion anymore?
In the new system, students will no longer earn what are referred to as ‘compliance grades,’ which are scores based on meeting behavioral expectations. Grades are no longer given for finishing homework (even if it was entirely wrong) or completing menial tasks like permission slips. The focus will now be on student understanding of the subject, rather than completion.
What’s the difference between graded, scored, and completed?
Point-based grading is now exclusively reserved for summative assignments, which are tasks (like worksheets, projects, quizzes, and tests) that demonstrate student understanding of a subject. These are known as graded assignments, and are counted towards a student’s PowerSchool average and are graded on correctness. Formative assessments (those that aim to build a student's understanding of a class) are no longer graded.
Scored assignments do not count towards the PowerSchool grade. Students recieve a score from their teacher that gives feedback for improvement without penalizing student for incorrect answers.
Recorded assignments are completion-based and do no do not count towards the PowerSchool grade. While failing to complete these tasks does not affect the student’s grade, it may result in disciplinary action.
What happened to extra credit?
No extra credit will be given this year. By removing extra credit, the new grading system avoids testing students on information that they were not taught or expected to know (for example, extra points for knowing a teacher’s favorite song.)
What about cheating?
Cheating will now have a disciplinary penalty instead of an academic penalty. Instead of receiving a zero in the gradebook, students will complete a new assignment that tests them on the same concepts.
How do students feel about the new system?
Students have had mixed reactions to the grading reform. Senior Loralei Bishop views it positively, explaining that it helps her to focus on understanding the material. She adds that the elimination of homework completion grades has helped reduce anxiety on assignments, saying “It relieves so much stress.”
Mckayla Tyrone, another senior, finds the increased importance of tests stressful, saying “For people that aren’t good at test taking, it’s going to be hard to get good grades.” Many juniors and seniors agree with this sentiment, expressing worry at how transcripts will look for college applications.
In response to these concerns, the school will be analyzing PowerSchool data to quantify the impact on student grades. Current plans call for a note to be attached to all transcripts that will explain the new grading system in order to communicate the information to employers and colleges.