Standard Based Grading

Michael C

Throughout my time at Neo City I have faced many challenges and obstacles that have helped me become a better individual and student, but one thing that I could always count on to stay consistent was the grading system. This year was, however, different. The students were greeted with a new grading system upon returning to school. In a frightening turn, the new system resulted in many students not having any grades in Focus until the last two weeks of the quarter. In the past, many students regularly turned to Focus for a precise look at their grade point average. The pressure of a new school year, the uncertainty of a global pandemic, and the inability to control the future of a country on the rocks.

If we focus on what the system is, purely in words and what it can be, its great! Being a school that is so focused on learning, the system will let students understand individual standards and get a better understanding on the struggles they have and what they need to do to improve themselves. The best description of what the grading system can be, was given in a statement by the school principal, Mr. Meechin. “SBG is a research-based approach to grading and assessment. It keeps student learning front and center in the process of assessment. SBG focuses on giving student feedback to get them to proficiency on an outcome (standard). Too often, students focus on, “is this for a grade?” As opposed to “did I learn what my teacher thought was important for me to learn?” Although this system has potential to benefit the school, it raises certain questions. Is the system having the effects hoped for?

Mr. Meechin also says, “our staff is focused on having an impact to the educational system.” It is true that Neo is ahead of the curve when it comes to its students, but that doesn’t mean Neo is perfect. There are bound to be hiccups. Even if COVID-19 was not currently happening, would the school have had a smooth transition with the new system? One student interviewed said, “I personally don’t think the grading system itself is bad, it’s just the way the teachers are handling it. Some teachers like Dr. Rollins and Ms. Strang have been very helpful with using the system the way the school described. Those teachers put each assignment into its respective standard and taking the highest grade for that standard. However, some teachers only use specific assignments and tend to leave vague standards. So, students are confused when they receive a 1 or 2 on an assignment they thought they did well on”. And where do digital kids fall in this new spectrum of unknowns?

Not to mention, it can’t be good that many teachers are having trouble understanding the technology handed to them. This barrier only pulls away from the learning experience, causing instructors to mainly focus on the Face to Face students. What happens when a student has difficulty logging in or cannot understand the material? As a solution, many staff members will recommend going to teachers for Research or Flex. However, looking at the solution from afar, does it make sense? How can a teacher be expected to teach an entire lesson in half the time? In the beginning of the year there was a “break’ where teachers were brought back to be taught the new rules of the COVID based environment, technological aspects of their new job, and the new grading scale. Just like the kids at Neo, the teachers can also be overwhelmed. Students have all seen multiple teachers struggle with the transition of being completely F2F (Face-To-Face) to now having a mesh of F2F and digital. Since instructors must juggle ten new things with only two hands, was throwing in a new system too?

The new grading system is a great idea on paper, as previously stated. The concept of a more focused and cleaner idea of grading work is great, but does it work? Yes, the school’s average grade has risen but at what cost. Students are facing more anxiety than ever; many students are struggling for a good grade and feels as though learning is more difficult. Another student interviewed said “Online school is extremely draining, despite the fact that students are only supposed to be on screens no more than 2 hours a day. At this point I’m more focused on turning in assignments rather than learning”. Eventually however, this will smooth over and the students of NeoCity will get a handle on the new system, along with its advantages. In the words of the wise Michael Meechin, “As with any system – we will hit roadblocks along the way, we will learn and refine, we will reflect on the process”.