Middle School Teachers,
As we are confronted with the distinctive challenge of schools closing for a prolonged period of time, the conversation regarding grading our students has shifted. We must consider the myriad of hardships our families may be facing (illness, unemployment, family-owned businesses struggling, increased and ongoing social isolation, etc). In short, while we all desire a measure of normalcy, the administration does not believe that traditional grading practices are appropriate in the unstable environment in which we currently find ourselves.
I have purposefully worked quietly for the past week to observe the ins and outs of our newly implemented Remote Learning Strategy. The feedback regarding standards-based assignments and assessments has been overwhelmingly positive. Yet, my biggest concern is the administration’s ability to calm the stress on faculty, parents, and students. Consequently, after careful consideration, we have decided to change the Spring Semester grading policy for Middle School (excluding Algebra I). The full explanation is below. I want to acknowledge that I put forth our first grading scale and instructions for online learning. Thus, this transition is due to my decision to monitor and adjust as we progress online. Obviously, my goal is to make the necessary minor adjustments while keeping the same framework. It is my hope this is the most significant change we will make.
From this point forward, CAC Middle School teacher will assess students based on the completion, submission, and understanding of their work for the Spring semester. Teachers will continue to teach using Google Classroom, Google Meet, and Zoom. Students will be assessed using ME (Meets Expectations) or (NI) Needs Improvement. By doing this, we join a multitude of public and private colleges and universities that have recently adopted similar policies. In a recent policy statement, Columbia University stated that “this, of course, does not reflect a reduction in expectations, but rather an acknowledgment of the severe complications of this unusual moment.”
Middle School Teachers, it is crucial we understand the end goal of this Spring Semester. Students should master the concepts that coincide with their grade level. Thus, numerical and alphabetical grades should be secondary to students’ ability to master the necessary academic concepts that will allow them to stay on track for the next grade-level.
This is a mindset change, but I believe it will be beneficial for all involved.
Middle School Grading Model
*THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO ALGEBRA.
Daily Assignments and Homework
Daily assignments and homework should not be tied to a grade. The grading model moving forward should be tied to assessment and large projects only.
- Students are encouraged to complete work and assignments because it will benefit them in future assessments and help with the mastery of concepts.
- Feedback: Students who turn in assignments will receive feedback from the teacher. Essentially, the reward for turning in small assignments will be valuable feedback.
- What if a student does not complete or turn in a daily assignment or homework? Ultimately, it is the student’s choice to complete the homework or assignments. Those who do not turn in daily assignments and homework will not be punished or receive a negative grade. They will simply not receive feedback and will be less likely to master concepts. Teachers do not need to chase them down or require them to turn it in.
ME- Meets expectations (70% or above)
NI- Needs improvement (below 70%)
M- Incomplete or Missing (Student did not submit work)
Larger Assignments & Assessments
Larger assignments, projects, and assessments must have a grade attached if the task is critical to the mastering of concepts.
Meets Expectations: Students who score 70% or above will receive a ‘ME’ (Meets Expectations) in RenWeb.
Needs Improvement: Students who score 69% or less will receive a ‘NI’ (Needs Improvement) in RenWeb.
- Students who receive an ‘NI’ on a graded task will have one chance to re-do the assignment and hopefully earn a ‘ME’.
- Prior to the students redoing the task, they will arrange an individual feedback session with the teacher during Independent Study to review areas that require improvement.
- STUDENTS WILL HAVE ONE OPPORTUNITY TO RETAKE ALL GRADED ASSIGNMENTS.
On any graded material (assessment, large project) students who do not meet expectations (NI) will be required to meet with the teacher for feedback. Students will be permitted to re-do the graded activity one more time to hopefully Meet Expectations (ME)
What steps should I take if a student receives an “NI” or “M”?
- The teacher should communicate with the student and parent, notify them of the NI or M grade and offer support as needed.
- Teachers should arrange individual feedback sessions with student(s) to help understand areas of weakness.
- Students will have the opportunity to retake assignments as arranged by the teacher.
- Teachers should communicate with principals regarding students they may be concerned about. Principals will communicate with parents as needed.
- Students will not be penalized for late assignments.
- Teachers should notify students when graded assignments are late, and students will be able to turn in assignments for full credit. Remember grace and concept mastery.
- What happens if a student is consistently late when turning in assignments? Please let the administration know. There has to be a line, but the vast majority of students will turn in an assignment quickly if they are informed it is missing.
Assessment & Final Exams
- Your tests are the most critical part of this new grading model.
- All assessments should be administered under timed conditions and include extremely thorough questions covering standard-based material.
What will grades look like at the end of the semester?
Middle school students will receive one of two grades: Meets Expectations (ME) or Needs Improvement (NI) for the Spring Semester. Students will take a final cumulative exam during finals week and will receive a ME or NI for that exam.
What happens if a student does not Meet Expectations (ME) on a final exam?
The same policy as adopted for the fourth quarter will apply to the final exams. The student will have the opportunity to retake the exam one time to attempt to Meet Expectations (ME). Retakes will be organized with the Principal.
What should I do right now? Wait until Mr. Steward tells you what to do!
- Remember: This is only applicable to Quarter 4
- Go into your gradebook and change any grades 70% or above to ‘ME.’
- Go into your gradebook and change any grades below a 70% to ‘NI.’
- Assignments that have not been completed/ turned in will still be marked with an ‘M.’
- DO NOT ADD ANY NUMERICAL GRADES IN RENWEB FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE SEMESTER.
It is crucial to view this grading model as a temporary model to suit our current climate and meet academic needs. The focus is not on grades, nor many graded assignments. The focus is for all students to achieve concept mastery. Ultimately, we want to relieve the pressure of grades for students and teachers so we can focus on creating the best learning environment.
As you continue to plan your online lessons, you need to make sure that grades are only tied to major assignments (large projects) and assessments. If a student decides not to complete an ungraded homework assignment, that is their decision. This does not take away from your teaching or value. The ownership is on the students and their parents to understand that assignments (graded and ungraded) are in place to contribute toward concept mastery. The likelihood is there will be a positive correlation between students who complete all assignments and their assessment grades.