Grading to Support Student Learning
Grades should support student learning, measure student achievement and give feedback on specific areas of strength and weakness. As a school division, we’re continuing the process of assessing our grading system and revising report cards to more accurately report student progress — both strategies identified in the Design for Excellence 2020, the strategic innovation plan of Chesterfield County Public Schools.
A grading practices committee made up of students, teachers, parents and administrators was charged with studying this issue. During the 2013-14 school year, the Chesterfield County School Board reviewed recommendations from the grading committee, suggested changes and hosted a public engagement session with students, staff members and parents to receive additional input.
The grading practices committee proposed a 10-point grading scale as an alternative to the previous 6-point grading scale that was being implemented. Many school divisions in Virginia and across the country have made this switch in recent years. The 10-point scale is based on the College Board’s grading scale. Most colleges and many high schools use this scale. The 10-point scale makes our students more competitive for college admissions and scholarships, and serves as a motivator that will increase student attendance and enrollment in more-rigorous course offerings.
In addition, the committee proposed that the school division move toward standards-driven grading at the elementary level which measures a student’s performance against a standard — providing a more accurate measure. Such a transition would also help make grading practices more consistent from teacher to teacher and from school to school.
Subsequently, a team of school division staff members worked to redefine expectations for student report cards to reflect the recommendations of the committee. Prior to the committee work, report cards had not been revised or updated for several decades. The report cards represented how we used to teach, learn and assess and did not take into account many of the 21st-century skills that our students are learning today.
The committee recommendations were approved by the school board. During the 2014-15 school year, the implementation of the 10-point grading scale and modification to the middle and high school report cards occurred. In looking forward to the 2015-16 school year, changes to the elementary report card, to include standards-driven grading and inclusion of 21st century skills, will be implemented.
Changes to Grading Practices
The primary purpose of grades is communication of student achievement on specified standards. Standards include content and skills. They include Chesterfield County Public Schools standards; state, national and international standards; and any additional standards specified by the teacher. Grades shall support learning by accurately representing student achievement and providing students with feedback.
The main audience for grade communication is the student and the student’s family. For high school, prospective colleges and employers are also important audiences.
Teachers must be able to relate all graded work to specific standards, and they will use professional judgment in selecting, managing and assessing student assignments. Teachers need to be able to clearly explain and justify the grade determination process. Weighting and categorization of grades shall be written and clearly communicated to students and parents.
Consensus and consistency are expected within subject areas and grade levels throughout the school division. It is an expectation that teachers have a sufficient number of grades for each category so that one low (or high) grade does not skew the reporting on a student’s academic ability.
A 10-point grading scale was implemented to create a level playing field for Chesterfield County students, bringing our school division in line with other large school divisions in Virginia. Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, students in grades K-1 will be graded on a 4-point scale. Students receiving a 1 are performing below standard; students receiving a 4 are those whose performance exceeds the standard.
For the first time, students will also be assessed on performance in work-related skills. Parents will receive feedback on a student’s work in the areas of critical thinking, responsibility, collaboration, communication, self-management and technology literacy.
Changes to the Elementary Report Cards
The purpose of a report card is to accurately and clearly communicate student achievement to parents, based on Chesterfield County Public Schools objectives for each grade level. The report card is intended to inform parents and guardians about learning successes and areas in need of improvement.
When reviewing the student report cards, school division leaders did not believe that the current report card structure provided parents with a precise, detailed portrait of a student’s understanding, progress and performance. Changes to the middle and high school report card were implemented during the 2014-15 school year. Changes to the elementary report card will be implemented during the 2015-16 school year.
Through a proposed new report card, students in grades K-1 will be graded on a 4-point scale. Students receiving a 1 are performing below standard; students receiving a 4 are those whose performance exceeds the standard.
Students in grades 2-5 would receive a letter grade for their work in a subject and then receive ratings of 1-4 on subject-specific objectives within the content areas. For example, a student’s overall reading grade could be reported as a “B” for the marking period and the student could receive a 2 (approaching the standard) in “comprehension of non-fiction reading material.” In addition, teachers will be able to indicate a child’s reading level as above, on or below the current reading benchmark.
The goal is to provide parents with a clearer understanding of their student’s strengths and weaknesses and areas where parents can provide additional support at home.
Report cards will also measure student progress on obtaining 21st-century skills and give parents information about student progress in the development of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and technological literacy skills.