More on Grades: A Case Study in Change
Yesterday’s discussion on grades sparked a discussion worth continuing. Let’s take a close look at a school that overhauled its grading policy. Principal Joel McKinney of Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis--an urban school with more than 3,000 students--explains the work he has led for years to reform grading.
Readers : What do you think of this approach?
From Principal McKinney:
Regarding grading and assessment practices, most of my work (until recently) has been at the middle school level. While there, we worked with the teaching staff to change the grading scale to the following:
90 -100 = A
80 - 89 = B
70 - 79 = C
Below 70 = F
We eliminated the D grade. We believe that students must meet proficiency of the standards in order to be successful at the next level. It is imperative that we provide the supports necessary to get every student to at least the "C" level.
Additionally, we improved our classroom assessment by eliminating the use of the following practices:
*Penalizing students’ multiple attempts at mastery (We are more interested in the learning than the time it takes for them to learn.)
*Incorporating non-academic factors into a student’s academic grade (behavior, attendance, effort). A grade should represent what a student knows and is able to do in regard to the content area.
*Grading on a "curve" - We compare students to the standard, not each other.
*Grading all "practice" assignments (An average of a student’s practice attempts is not an indicator of mastery.)
We trained teachers in providing specific, timely and accurate feedback to students regarding their learning targets.
Shortly after moving to the high school three years ago, we ran a 9-week-long "failure challenge" and asked teachers to develop classroom intervention strategies for reducing course failure among our struggling learners.
Through the challenge, we increased parent contacts, increased after-school tutoring, increased learning contracts, increased project-based learning, and increased other instructional strategies that have demonstrated success.
We calculated that we had saved over 1,000 failing grades. (A reminder that Ben Davis is a large urban high school. We serve over 3,000 students in grades 10, 11, and 12.)
Three times each semester, our teachers submit "safety net reports" that list the students who are currently failing or in danger of failing the class. In addition to the names, teachers identify the strategies that have been utilized, the strategies yet to be attempted, and documented parent contact.
In the last few semesters we have begun to report these by breaking them down into NCLB [No Child Left Behind] breakout groups such as Black, White, Hispanic, ENL, and Special Education.
Three years ago, 16- 20 percent of all student grades were failing grades. The last two years, we have finished the year with a 7% - 8% failure rate.
Our 2006 graduation rate was 65%. Our 2007 grew to 67% and our 2008 grew to 70%. Our final calculation of the 2009 graduating class looks as if it will come in at 72 - 73%.
Grading and assessment practices are critical and integral to instructional practices.
Student learning and achievement are our top priorities.
| September 17, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Save & Share: Previous: THE GROUP: Getting Kids to Sleep at Night So They Don’t Nod Off in Class
Next: The Same Story in D.C.
Posted by: someguy100 | September 17, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ddaudelin | September 18, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: the1jem | September 19, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: footballmom1 | September 23, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.