Balto. Co. schools re­vise grade pol­icy

New plan had drawn ire of par­ents; sys­tem of­fi­cials say teach­ers mis­in­ter­preted it

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Car­rie Wells cwells@balt­

Baltimore County schools of­fi­cials have mod­i­fied a con­tro­ver­sial new grad­ing pol­icy they say was mis­in­ter­preted by teach­ers.

The pol­icy, rolled out at the start of this school year, was in­tended to make stu­dents’ over­all grades more ac­cu­rately re­flect what they learned, with­out in­clud­ing scores from mi­nor home­work as­sign­ments and points for at­ten­dance and other fac­tors, of­fi­cials say. But it sparked an up­roar among par­ents, who said it low­ered their chil­dren’s over­all grades.

Baltimore County’s chief aca­demic of­fi­cer, Ver­letta White, said teach­ers in­ter­preted the new pol­icy’s fo­cus on “as­sess­ment” to mean they should only grade tests and quizzes.

“It was never in­tended to be all tests and quizzes,” White said. “I think that was the ma­jor point of mis­un­der­stand­ing. There are mul­ti­ple ways to as­sess stu­dent learn­ing. It could be a re­search re­port, or a lab, it could be an es­say.”

Be­fore this year, tests counted for 30 per­cent of a stu­dent’s grade, class­work was 60 per­cent and home­work was 10 per­cent.

At the start of the school year, that was changed to say that home­work, ef­fort, at­ten­dance and be­hav­ior would no longer be fac­tored into the grade. The pol­icy did not spec­ify how a grade should be cal­cu­lated in per­cent­ages, but said a “body of ev­i­dence” that in­cluded as­sign­ments, tests, dis­cus­sions and projects should be used to de­ter­mine grades.

Par­ents protested the re­moval of such fac­tors as home­work and at­ten­dance, ar­gu­ing that their chil­dren would be mea­sured based on less than a dozen tests or quizzes, leav­ing them lit­tle room for er­ror.

The re­vi­sion re­leased this week notes that tests, projects and other ma­jor as­sign­ments should make up a third of a stu­dent’s grade. The other two-thirds should be made up of daily class­work, sig­nif­i­cant home­work as­sign­ments, dis­cus­sions and other as­sign­ments.

White said the mod­i­fi­ca­tion was is­sued in re­sponse to “the themes that have emerged from the feed­back we’ve re­ceived from our stake­hold­ers,” in­clud­ing par­ents, teach­ers and stu­dents.

When the ear­lier pol­icy was an­nounced, a pe­ti­tion started on call­ing on Baltimore County schools to drop it and ac­cus­ing the school sys­tem of “set­ting up the stu­dents for fail­ure” gar­nered more than 1,500 par­ent and stu­dent sig­na­tures.

Wendy Crites, the par­ent of a sopho­more at Tow­son High School, said her daugh­ter’s grades and those of her friends had fallen, caus­ing them in­tense anx­i­ety.

“Their GPAs are fall­ing but who is go­ing to tell the colleges in the fu­ture why they’re not do­ing well?” she said.

Crites said she had to hire a tu­tor for her daugh­ter and that many other par­ents had done the same be­cause home­work as­sign­ments were no longer be­ing re­viewed in class, de­priv­ing stu­dents of a chance to learn what mis­takes they were mak­ing and cor­rect them be­fore tak­ing tests.

The new pol­icy, called stan­dards-based grad­ing, is be­com­ing more com­mon across the coun­try. Un­der the pol­icy, stu­dents in Baltimore County could re­take a test or redo an as­sign­ment to get a higher grade. Be­hav­ior, ef­fort and class par­tic­i­pa­tion would not be counted as part of the fi­nal grade but would be noted sep­a­rately on the stu­dent’s re­port card. Those changes re­main.

Jus­tine Stull, the PTA pres­i­dent at Westowne Ele­men­tary School in Ca­tonsville, said some of the changes were help­ful for her daugh­ter , who is in fourth grade and was able to re­take some tests and im­prove her score.

But Stull said dif­fer­ent teach­ers in­ter­preted the pol­icy in dif­fer­ent ways, lead­ing to con­fu­sion.

Kevin Dal­simer, a math teacher at Tow­son High School, said he sup­ported the ini­tial pol­icy change be­cause he thought it would make stu­dents’ grades more ac­cu­rately re­flect what they knew and leave them bet­ter pre­pared for Ad­vanced Place­ment ex­ams and col­lege.

“It was easy for kids to have a grade that wasn’t re­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive of their knowl­edge base,” Dal­simer said. “I thought it had a lot of value, to hold kids ac­count­able, to pro­vide kids with the in­cen­tive, but then also with the means to get there through in­di­vid­ual ini­tia­tive,”

Dal­simer said the re­vised pol­icy will re­new con­cerns among teach­ers about stu­dents get­ting good grades with­out ac­tu­ally mas­ter­ing the ma­te­rial.

“To me it shows a lack of trust in the teach­ers and our abil­ity to im­ple­ment the pol­icy with class­room level mod­i­fi­ca­tions,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.