Board of Education Calls for Greater Consistency in Grading of Student Performance Among Schools

January 12, 2000
The Board of Education has called for greater consistency among schools in the grading of student performance across the school system. Yesterday [Tuesday, January 11], the Board directed the superintendent to form a workgroup of teachers, principals, parents and representatives of other key constituencies to identify ways of eliminating the wide variability in grading among and within schools.

The workgroup will be asked to research best practices on national and local levels on grading scales and grading systems in order to develop recommendations for grading practices that can be incorporated systemwide.

The Board's action followed a report on grading that focused on emerging trends in school accountability at the state and national levels that are prompting a closer examination of how student performance is assessed locally. Of particular concern is the lack of alignment of grading practices with more formal student assessments, particularly those used at both the county and state level.

"We must ensure that rigorous performance standards are in place from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12," said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, in the report to the Board. "Nonetheless, as grading practices are examined, a necessary balance needs to be maintained between the need for consistency in grading practices and the need for teacher judgment in the process," Dr. Weast said. "I am keenly aware of the importance of teacher judgment and insight in the determination of a student's performance.

"At the same time, I also am aware that inconsistency in academic standards and variability in grading and reporting among schools is limiting the system's ability to ensure that all students receive the same high quality of instruction and opportunity throughout the county," he said.

The need for consistency is reflected in the development of countywide high school final examinations. This effort began after it was revealed last year that schools varied widely in the grading scales used to assess student performance on the final examination for Algebra. Currently, departmental final exams are given in English, science, social studies, and computer science. These departmental exams are not necessarily the same from school to school and reflect only local grading practices and standards.

Countywide, the first implementation of standardized grading scales for all high schools on final exams takes place this month with the semester exams in Algebra 1 and Geometry. Standardized grading scales are being developed for countywide exams in foreign languages. Other exams are being developed to prepare for the implementation of the high school state assessment program.

Reducing the variability in grading at the individual school level is also important because of the current development of a "system of shared accountability" in response to the Call to Action. The accountability system would involve assessments to measure student and school performance across the county. Such a system would need to have consistent academic measures to be clearly articulated to students, parents, teachers, and administrators.

At the same time, staff development will be necessary for preparing teachers, principals, and other staff to develop appropriate assessments, interpret data, and implement appropriate grading practices.

<<Back to browse