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Denton ISD rolling out new grading system

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Denton ISD is changing its grading system for secondary students to provide them more than just a number when reporting their academic progress. 

Under the new system, the first of its kind in the area, the teaching and instructional staff has designed a format better suited to accurately report student learning, according to school officials.

The main objective in updating the grading policy is to keep parents informed about the students’ understanding and mastery of the academic content covered. Their grades will accurately reflect what the students have learned, educators said.

“The changes we are implementing next fall are tied to our beliefs about learning, assessment and grading.  If we believe that grades should accurately reflect what a student has learned, then our grading and assessment practices should align with that belief.  That is why we have separated out giving a grade for behaviors that are not part of the standards,” said Vicky Christenson, director of secondary instructions, curriculum and staff development. 

The district’s Academic Leadership Team (ALT) researched the system for the past two years. The ALT gathered input from international educational experts, local administrators, as well as district teachers and parents. Several teachers are currently piloting the grading system in their current classes with positive results.

Their conclusion was a grading system developed by the ALT that ensures parents and students can understand if students are learning and mastering the content, while not penalizing students for behavioral issues.

“We still value behaviors such as meeting deadlines.  We will still expect those behaviors; we will model those behaviors for our students, correct, and when appropriate, provide consequences for students who do not meet deadlines.  But, we will not be penalizing a student’s grade which should only report their learning,” Mrs. Christenson said.

Similar measures have been adopted by institutions of higher education, which falls in line with Denton ISD’s mission to better prepare our students for success upon graduation, officials said

The school district released a list of frequently asked questions for parents concerned about the changes:

What is the purpose of the new grading system?

The main purpose of the new grading system is that students will be responsible for their own learning, and will continue to relearn content until they have mastered it.

How will the new grading system work?

The new system will require a 9-week grading period to allow teachers more time for feedback and accurate assessments. This will:

•    Hold the students accountable for learning the curriculum tied to standards;
•    Provide “value learning” over earning numerical points and not allow students to “take a grade” when learning has not occurred;
•    Recognize that feedback is a valuable tool to increase learning;
•    Understand that errors are part of the learning process;
•    Allow students to take personal ownership of their own learning.

How was the grading system initiated?

For the past two years, Denton ISD’s Academic Leadership Team has researched  grading practices that fall in line with the district’s goals. The team gathered input from international educational experts, local administrators, as well as district teachers and parents.

The end result was a grading system developed by the ALT that ensures parents and students can understand if students are learning and master the content, while not penalizing the students for behavioral issues.

How will this grading system help students?

The new system will give students more access to teachers and allow the teachers to provide them with more feedback, helping them acquire a better understanding of what content they have mastered and what content they need to put more work toward mastering. During this process, teachers and staff will work with students to develop behaviors that the community values and will help them be successful in life.

Why is there no longer a grade reduction for late work?

The system’s goal is to measure what a student knows and understands. While meeting deadlines and turning in assignments on time is a desirable behavior, it does not determine whether or not a student knows the content.

Why are students allowed to retake tests/exams and get full value on these reassessments?

A student’s grade should reflect his/her mastery of the content. Allowing students to retake an exam or test, lets students reflect on what they have learned and demonstrate their increase in knowledge of the content covered.

All end-of-semester exams are final and will not fall under the same standards as course work issued during the 9-week grading periods. Semester exams are, by design, reassessments and the grades earned reflect a cumulative mastery of the content standards.

Will students be able to retake any exam or test whenever they want?

No, any tests or exams that students try to retake must be completed during the 9-week grading period. Additionally, retests will only be allowed once the student has worked with the teacher to prove that new learning has taken place and that they have a better understanding of that content.

How does my student earn the opportunity to retake an exam or test?

Students can qualify for the opportunity to retake a test or exam by demonstrating that new learning has occurred and that they have a better understanding of that content. Examples of this process include but are not limited to:

•    Attending tutorial sessions
•    Completing new work or previously assigned work
•    Discussing with the teacher the necessary improvements to achieve content mastery

Why are zeroes no longer being used to indicate missing/incomplete work?

Zeros indicate that no content mastery has been achieved. Using zero gives an inaccurate reflection of a student’s knowledge or improvement toward mastery of content.

Source: Denton ISD

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