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Has Harrison Changed Its Standards?

Reasons behind Harrison's new grading system.

Kacey Craig

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Unsatisfied with the former grading system, Director of Instructional Equity, Naomi Khalil and the rest of FPS’ faculty teamed up at the beginning of the school year to discuss how FPS could use grades to better reflect a student’s knowledge. Their solution: standards-based grading.

While the traditional grading system rated students on their overall proficiency, standards-based grading breaks the subject into numerous learning targets. From a one-  “little or no mastery” to a four- “exceeds expectations” students can see every accomplishment and verify exactly what they need to work on.

Along with the transition in the structure of grades there are a few more changes that the district is exploring for next year. The first three are no penalties for late work, no extra credit and no grading based off a student’s behavior. Teachers are also trying to ensure a growth mindset in their students (the thought that failure means room for improvement instead of a reason to quit).  

Mrs. Khalil said, “Standards-based grading looks to have students graded and evaluated on their academic learning. For example, if you are a student who doesn’t do classwork or homework but somehow can ace a test and you can demonstrate mastery of the concepts covered, should you receive a low grade? If you do, what is your grade reflecting? Your academic level, or how well you complete tasks?”

There were multiple different sides to this question.

For example, Allison Hopkins, 12 was divided on this issue. She said, “I’ve heard stories of students who are quite intelligent and can ace a test but would fail because they didn’t do their homework.” She then said. “At the same time, I feel like there is a genuine use in just giving someone points for completing busy work because I think most of human life is just doing busy work to get by, and you have to get use to that at a young age.”

When asked about the coming elimination of extra credit, algebra 1 teacher Mrs. Chapman said, “I do believe that grades should not be falsely inflated, and they should very much reflect what a student is capable of doing in that course.”

J’Lynne Raines, 12 said, “Some students abuse extra credit. They’ll use it just to pass a class. But some students, however, who use their time wisely and do time-management can use extra credit just to boost their grade.”

But not everyone is taking the Standards-Based policy switch with ease.  Both parents and students have voiced their doubts about this new system. Just this September, Alexis Juncaj, 10, petitioned the board so that students could see their percentage grades (see Harrison Student Fights For Grades for more information) which was an aspect that was once eliminated by standards-based so that students could focus on what they’ve learned rather than a percentage. 

Students gave various opinions on the new grading system.

Jayla Meeks, 12 said, “I think homework not being graded removes enthusiasm for a student to want to complete it.”

When asked about this issue, Mrs. Khalil said, “for most students it is necessary to do the classwork and homework for the learning to occur. Very few students can actually do nothing and ace an exam. So this is not about not needing to do homework or classwork, but rather about making those activities necessary for learning so that students can demonstrate their mastery on assessments.” 

Allison Hopkins later added, “I think there needs to be a balance. For some students you may need to give them a year of standards-based and then help them understand they need to move towards a different way of schooling and just learn how to put up with the tedium of life at an early age.”

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Has Harrison Changed Its Standards?