School Views: Revisiting our grading practices
At the beginning of the school year, Eagle County Schools shared with parents and students our goal to implement a more accurate and effective grading policy, along with an anticipated implementation timeline. As we near the end of the first semester and reflect back on what we’ve accomplished, we see that while our goals remain the same, the path continues to change.
The pandemic has consistently required us to reflect and pivot to meet the changing needs of our students. I am extremely grateful for all of our Eagle County School District staff and their commitment and willingness to work together on this important initiative.
In meeting with teachers and students at many of our schools, myself and other district leaders have come to realize that while we continue to work toward our end goal of a more accurate and consistent grading system, our initial three-year timeline needs adjustment. This school year has presented unanticipated challenges for our staff members, families and students. In the interest of these stakeholders, we now view our grading policy revisions as a four-year plan that we will continue to evolve and develop.
Early in this endeavor, we sought to find ways to grade based on academic proficiency primarily through exams, essays and projects rather than homework assignments, practice components and soft skills. This past semester has taught us that a healthy balance can be struck relying on what one administrator recently called “evidence of learning.”
We will continue to achieve this balance so that our grading practices provide meaningful feedback to educators, students and their families while providing a motivating learning experience for our students.
Students have made tremendous progress since the start of school in August. They deserve a grading system that celebrates their growth instead of memorializing errors that are inherent in the learning process. As we move into second semester, we will continue to develop our plans to improve our grading system. The following two components represent the basic implementation goals of the 2021-22 school year.
Grading based on academic proficiency
We want to gain an understanding of what our students know in regard to the subject matter in question. This means less grading of soft skills and removing elements from grade books that have no link to academic growth or achievement (like submitting syllabi that are signed by parents, or bringing extra supplies to class).
Creating a culture of revision
We are prepared to help students increase their knowledge by embracing mistakes and providing students an opportunity to fix them, grow from them and, ultimately, learn from them.
Several ECSD schools have been doing this work for many years and are well beyond these initial goals, while a few are new to the work and find these goals adequately challenging for the first year of the transition.
Following the revised timeline, we expect that by the end of year four we will have a grading system that truly gauges a student’s understanding of the content they are expected to know for each class at each grade level; provides meaningful information to students, parents and fellow educators; and better prepares our students to move forward in their academic journeys.
We continue to support our schools that choose to pilot more ambitious strategies as they move forward in their pursuit of improving grading practices. We will use their lessons learned to foster district-wide efficiency, and by the end of year four, all schools will be grading on a 0-4 scale, just like a GPA scale.
Our commitment has always been to the success of our students, and we are confident that these changes will continue to support that goal. Having a better understanding of what our students know will empower us, parents and educators, to help them grow and learn even more.
Philip Qualman is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. Email him at email@example.com.