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Standards-based grading scale enriches student's education

Submitted by amy.huhtala on Mon, 10/14/2013 - 14:16
By SaJHS Spartan Chronicle Staff Writers


  Salem Junior High School (SaJHS) is on the forefront of education in the Nebo School district by implementing a standards-based grading scale schoolwide this year. According to Suzanne Kimball, SaJHS principal, the grading scale will put more emphasis on what the students know. “Teachers, students, and parents will be able to assess more clearly which concepts the students has mastered and which ones the student needs to work on,” said Kimball. “This is the dream for education.” The year’s first SaJHS Spartan Target Conference will be held November 7 from 3:15 to 8 p.m. where parents and students will be able to meet together and discuss the student’s first term proficiency scores.

  One of the biggest changes with the grading system is that a very high percentage of a student’s grade in each subject is based on their assessment scores. However, students are allowed to retake “I Can” assessments. This allows students to reflect on their performance, relearn material they missed, and improve their knowledge and assessment score. “I think it’s a brilliant system. We are putting the emphasis on what matters-- student learning and proficiency,” said Amy Huhtala, English teacher. “Not only does this grading scale emphasize proficiency, but it motivates teachers to ensure a viable curriculum. It helps focus our teaching to ensure we are teaching exactly what our students need to know,” said Huhtala.

The second part of the grading scale is a 4-point assessment system. Instead of a point value and percentage being assigned to each assessment, teachers will use 1,2,3, or 4 to indicate proficieny level (see graphic at right for explanation).

The new grading system has caused mixed reactions among faculty and students at SaJHS. Mrs. Hales, math teacher said, “I think it’s a new, great system. It’ll give both parents and students a perspective of where the students stand in the classroom.” However, 8th grade student Kenny Cannon feels that it will only help certain students. Ninth grader Mackenzie Henderson claims, “I don’t like it. The percentages for the test really scare me.” Eighth grader Bryce Black states, “With this scale, we have to focus more on our test scores in hopes that we can pass the 8th grade.”“This whole new grading scale is meant to push students to be better.” Mrs. Brooksby, choir teacher.

Kimball states, “One of the most beneficial things about this change is that students will students will be able to look specifically at where they are excelling and pinpoint the areas where they need to learn more. Kimball elaborates, “Some students complain that they are bad at a subject, but now they can actually see exactly which part of that subject they are failing.” Mrs. Halcrow, history teacher and school counselor agrees, “From every angle, it is a benefit for every student. “This grading system will help the students feel better about themselves, learn more, get better grades, and feel more accomplished at the end of the year.”

Students are encouraged to keep track of their scores on assessments by checking SIS and seeking help from teachers during olympic time. Kimball stated that each department should hold a subject-level study hall and a reteaching session each week. Most departments will also provide a test retake classroom during olympic time. Kimball encourages students to be proactive when determining where they should go for olympic time. "Students are in charge of their own learning.  They are capable to seeing where they need help and seeking out and, in some cases, being directed, to the reteaching areas they will need for improvement."

In an effort to help students and parents understand the new grading system, SaJHS held a back-to-school night on September 5. Parents and students were able to meet with teachers and the administration hosted a question and answer session in the cafetorium. “We have developed a brochure to help clarify our procedures and vision along with copied articles for anyone interested in more information,” Kimball explained.