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New grading pilot to require 'C' grades and on-time assignments PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

All students in Holyoke grades 4-12 must complete all work at a rate of 70 percent (“C”) or better and must finish all assignments by their due date.

A support system will be put in place through a Homework Center as the district makes huge changes in the 2011-12 approach to raising the bar for all students.

Supt. Bret Miles explained the history of grading discussions, nature of a pilot, basic components/belief statements, next steps and communication plan for the grading pilot at the June 7 school board meeting.

Students in Holyoke School District grades 4-12 will be held more accountable for timeliness and quality of work.

Students who oftentimes or always missed work were cited for lower CSAP scores and lower grades. It became obvious teachers can’t give students relevant feedback if the work is late or missing.

“Students in our school will not be allowed to choose to fail.” That’s one belief statement that supports the district believing all students can learn the material at a 70 percent level with time and support.

The two basic components of the grading pilot are:

­—All work must be completed at a rate of 70 percent (C) or better.

—All work must be completed by due date.

Teachers are committed to help reteach to help get content to 70 percent. Work will be completed after school in the Homework Center, which will be staffed by several licensed teachers each day.

To this end, the board has budgeted $30,000 to staff the Homework Center for 2011-12.

All students who fail to have an assignment done the day it is due will stay in the Homework Center that day to complete the work.

Additionally, work that is still missing after a week is subject for ineligibility. The district believes academics (good work and on-time work) come before athletics and extra-curricular activities.

“The best penalty for missing work is to do the work,” said Miles. It doesn’t do the student any good to just skip assignments.

However, Miles explained the highest grade which will be recorded for late work will be 70 percent so students don’t start using the system by taking extra time in order to get a higher grade. There is still a penalty for late work.

This approach emphasizes the district’s message that students need to learn deadlines are important and expected by bosses and college professors.

Any student who has been earning grades of 70 percent or higher and who turns assignments in on time will essentially feel no effect of this change in grading practice.

Change can be hard, especially when it’s with something as traditional as grades, said Supt. Miles.

“I’m proud that our teachers will step forward and acknowledge that to get different results we have to do work differently,” he added.

Miles hopes this will be looked at as another chance to shift some of the thinking from “catching and penalizing kids” to “supporting and not giving up on kids.”


Total teacher support essential

Voluntary participation in a pilot project such as this one regarding grading is key to its success.

The program came from the teacher-led leadership team and was originally open to all teachers in the district to participate in the pilot.

Data showed a definite need in grades 7-12, and there was a difference in the need shown by the data from the elementary school.

All JR/SR high teachers signed on board. Only the teachers in grades 4-6 signed on for two reasons.

First, there was a need seen by the teachers. Secondly, K-3 uses the standard-based report card which doesn’t really fit with this pilot.

Within the grading pilot, the district will be tracking and using the data for analysis.

Elementary pilot teachers were scheduled to meet Monday, June 13 to write procedures for the grading pilot, while JR/SR high pilot teachers were to meet June 14.


Communication is biggest challenge

Communicating the new grading pilot will be the biggest challenge, Miles told the board last week.

Following the report in this article from the June 7 board meeting, a summer series of nine more articles will appear in The Holyoke Enterprise to give different perspectives and explanations of the program.

Additionally, the grading pilot will be highlighted in the annual report to the community, at the August board meeting presentation, at back-to-school night and on the district web site.

“We believe this is the right work,” said Miles. “But is it the right solution?”

Miles acknowledged there will be bumps in the road, but it is the district’s desire that the balance of accountability and support will raise the bar for all students.

Data will be collected and results analyzed to determine the success of the 2011-12 grading pilot.

Holyoke Enterprise June 16, 2011