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Grading Changes Are Happening InThe Park City School District

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The Park City School District Board of Education met on Tuesday and received a presentation on Standards Based Learning which includes a new grading system. It’s a departure from the traditional letter grades and instead looks at academic and behavioral competancies. The program has been the target of some controversy mostly coming from parents and students who are feeling anxious and confused.

The discussion lasted nearly an hour with the Interim Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Traci Evans, telling the school board she has identified 16 different grading systems being used in the district.  She believes a grading system should reflect student learning and that behavior and academics should be separately measured.

“They are two completely different things. How many times do you hear of kids who don’t do any of the homework at all but they ace the test and they get a C or a D because none of their homework’s finished. Why should that kid have to do the homework if they’ve already mastered it. And then vice-versa, if somebody’s struggling, the homework shouldn’t be graded. That’s formative. Why should you grade somebody of something they’re practicing. They need practice in order to learn the content and the concept. The other piece is on the report card, if the kid’s not doing the homework, that needs to be reported as separate because those work habits and those study skills and those 21st century skills in my mind are equally important as the academics.”

Park City School Board President Andrew Caplan says he has heard concerns from the community indicating a lot of anxiety and confusion about the new grading system.

But, the deal of it is communication. And I know we have it up on the website. But the three of us are sitting here and we’ve been board members throughout this entire thing and we still have no clue how to translate what’s in Power School to a GPA. You know, our role is to represent the interests of the community and the concerns of the community and say, okay, we’re confused.”

Park City Superintendent, Jill Gildea says that a student’s final grades should indicate their level of mastery in that subject.

“In a true standards-based-world, standards- based-grades world, you remove your fear of grading, and you focus on learning. Because, if you’re learning, your grades are going to come because your going to master it. But, if I work on these skills and strategies and concepts, at the end, I have a chance to have mastered."

Public comment was given by Sharon and Bryant Bookhamer who have a daughter at Ecker Hill Middle School. He says there is a lot of inconsistency and subjectivity in how teachers are testing and grading his child.

“What I mean by that is in certain classes, there could be multiple tests. That causes a lot of anxiety. My daughter had that situation happen and I thought you should be aware of it. I do believe in the standard-based-learning. I do not so much believe in the standard-based-grading. If there’s going to be a standard base, there’s one test. That’s the standard. My daughter was handed the test and they said, oh, you got the hard test. She couldn’t finish the test. Based on the format of the test compared to other tests that were in that class. So, that’s where, to me, it becomes very subjective. Whoever decided to give her that test, obviously decided she could do it and she couldn’t. But, she was the one who received the failing grade.”

Board member Erin Grady says they are working on technology that will help with the reporting system.

“Something that we are working on is our technology assessment and having a reporting system that supports the whole child and it separates the academics from the behavior. And, something that was kind of presented from Traci last night. And, that system is actually, very cool and I think the parents would love that.”

All the elementary schools have used standards- based-grading for some time. Ecker Hill has transitioned this year. Treasure Mountain should be fully implemented by 2020. They’re trying to build in consistent practices for the grading at the High School. Currently, there are 13 different systems being used. Currently, the use of GPA ranking is not going away at the high school. 

 
    
 
 

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