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Setting a new standard on grades

SOLON– Teacher A is recording tests and assignments in his grade book. Teacher B is using a new system of standards-based grades in hers.
It’s all part of the process of moving Solon schools in line with an Iowa Department of Education initiative on assessment for learning, one of five characteristics the state has identified for providing effective instruction to Iowa students.
Standards-based grades will be the only method in all Solon schools next year, but this year is a time of transition, as teachers are asked to embrace the plan gradually, trying it out in the first three semesters with at least one class completely standards-based by the end of the year in the grading system.
Solon parents are asking if their kids’ grades will go down or up and high school principal Nathan Wear said that depends on whether the student understands the concepts presented or not.
In the new system, homework and activities are assigned to help grasp the subject matter, but students get grades based on their measured comprehension of a set of course standards established by the teacher.
Once they do pass a set of standards, it’s off to the races as they find other standards to ace.
Extra credit or bonus points are meaningless in the standards-based system which is meant to improve communication between parent, student and teacher.
Students and teachers are getting used to the system, but parents need to shift their thinking, too.
Instead of asking, “Did you get your homework done?” Wear said parents should ask about the standards for different classes. Students should be able to identify the learning goals and they should know if they need to be reassessed in their standards.
Parents should ask, “are you ready on a [specific] standard?” he said, or, “did you reassess for that standard?”
Solon Community School District Director of Instruction/Technology Matt Townsley said one inconsistency for the new grade program is that some teachers are allowing multiple reassessments and others aren’t. But Townsley defended the system and said there’s always been inconsistency from teacher to teacher. Different grading techniques at the schools aren’t new.
Teachers’ grade books often had vast differences. They offered a little extra credit, a lot of extra credit, or no extra credit and others weighted homework differently in computing final grades.
Solon Middle School has also implemented the system this year, but Lakeview Elementary has used standards for decades.
With the new system, some classroom rewards are eliminated. Instead, students are being judged on their demonstrated knowledge and how far they can advance through the standards for a class.
Next year, every class will use the system and throughout the year the district is providing teacher training to move it along.
For parents, the school has been assembling some informational meetings, one was held Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. and the next meeting is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. in the high school media center.