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Board receives updates on new grading system

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New grading practices that are being phased in Denton ISD’s secondary schools will allow students to take personal ownership of their own learning, school officials said.

The Board of Trustees was updated on the implementation of the “standards referenced grades and assessments” at its Tuesday meeting.

The new grading guidelines, which were piloted at many high school and middle school classes last year, will start with the 2014-15 school year. The system will be phased in throughout the year with full implementation expected by 2015 with opportunities for input from students, parents and the community during the process.   

School officials said the new practices provide more accountability for learning, more self-discipline for the students and ultimately a better-prepared high school graduate.

“This new system gives students more access to teachers and allow teachers to provide them with more feedback, which will help them acquire a better understanding of what content they have mastered and what content they need to put more work toward mastering,” said Vicky Christenson, director of secondary instruction, curriculum and staff development.

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

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

Under the new system, students will also be allowed to retest once he or she has worked with the teacher to prove that new learning has taken place and that they have a better understanding of that content.

“A student’s grade should reflect his/her learning and mastery of the content,” Christenson said. “Our secondary educators are committed to grading practices that support the students’ learning processes. We believe all students can learn, but they learn in different ways and within different time frames.”

McMath Middle School also piloted the system this past school last year at the sixth-grade level. Principal Debra Nobles said the staff identified students who needed additional assistance and worked with them before, after and during school. Teachers conducted tutoring times and the staff worked with Community In Schools for after-school extensions.

“The teachers were responsible to reteach the students. Teachers communicated with parents, who were willing to work with the teachers and their children,” Dr. Nobles said.

Dr. Nobles said the after-school sessions in supportive environments worked and the parents supported the program.

“Parents want them (their children) to do the work. We had a lot of students in the after-school work session the first semester. By February, we only had two,” Dr. Nobles said.

The McMath teachers and staff are working to expand the guidelines to seventh and eighth grade for this school year.

After announcing the new guidelines in April, Christenson said she has spoken to several community groups, including the Denton Community Council of PTAs. She said the high school parents whose students utilized the system last year were happy with the changes.   

She added that the secondary teachers and staff will work with students to develop behaviors that the community values and will help them be successful.

“We’re asking our teachers to change the whole concept of grading and doing what’s right for our students and what’s right for the staff,” Board President Glenna Harris said.

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