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You are Viewing an Archived Issue

Posted: 12/18/13

Effects from new RCS
grading under review

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      New grading practices for secondary level classrooms at Romeo Community Schools are being scrutinized.
       Assistant Superintendent Eric Whitney told the Board of Education at its Dec. 2 meeting that changes to grading implemented this year still require some tweaking before the district can determine if they're effective.
       Secretary Joe Fortuna was not present for the Dec. 2 meeting.
       Whitney presented a number of changes to grading practices in August developed by a 16-member committee of parents, teachers and administrators representing Romeo Middle School, Powell Middle School and Romeo High School.
       The changes to 6-12 grading practices included basing grades on individual achievement and not including factors like behavior and extra credit.
       "We think that they need to learn to be responsible, but if the grade is about learning, then teaching that responsibility belongs somewhere else outside of the grading system," he said.
       The changes also shifted the value of assessments. Summative assessments<tests or projects that can't be retaken<now count for 90 percent of the grade while formative assessments like homework count for 10 percent.
       Whitney said the changes reflect the need to have consistent grading and assessment practices in all classrooms. He said grades should also show a link between the grade and learning.
       "In other words, if I get an A in U.S. history, it should mean that I understand and know at a very high level U.S. history," he said.
       Administrators collected the grades students received in each subject and the pass rates for those courses. Data from teacher grade books was garnered as well. Upon examining the data, Whitney said grade distribution hasn't been positively or negatively impacted by the changes, and that the middle schools are seeing less of an impact than the high school.
       He said most concerns about the changes came from 11th-grade students and their parents. When interviewing students and parents, he said the biggest concern was the 90 percent value on tests.
       "We know that for some of our students that is a very big challenge because that can be a barrier to accurately reflecting what they know in a course," Whitney said.
       Additionally, he said formative assessments should provide more effective feedback as opposed to a teacher simply giving an assignment, grading it and handing it back.
       "At our committee it was I think consensus there that 90/10 is the right practice, but where we have stumbled is the implementation of that," he said.
       Whitney said remedies have been proposed like helping teachers better understand the role of assessments, varying the types and frequency of assessments and surveying teachers about their needs. He said teachers are collaborating by department on the grading changes to create common assessments.
       Trustee Gus Demas said that the district should stick with one grading practice like the 90/10 as instead of changing it on a yearly basis.
       "I think we made a decision, I think we need to stay with it over a lengthy period of time and gather the appropriate data before any tweaking might be necessary," he said.
       Parents at the meeting said the new practices put extra stress on students, especially if teachers aren't finding different ways to assess students aside tests.
       Cheryl Manchester said she believed the goals of consistency and a link between learning and grades could be accomplished with a 70/30 split instead of 90/10.
       "I would say that the committee that has been put together that is evaluating this should really take a look at what you're trying to achieve," she said.
       She said the new grading was forced onto the district, and didn't believe a lot of people agree with it.
       "You are putting our students, I feel, at a disadvantage when we're talking overall grade-point averages compared to other schools, especially those kids that are going to college," she said.


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Retrieved 4/25/2014 at 3:35:25 AM.
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