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Decatur School Board continues discussing grading system updates

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Decatur School Board continues discussing grading system updates

City Schools of Decatur School Board from left, James Herndon (vice chair), Dr. Carmen Sulton, Jana Johnson-Davis (chair), Superintendent Dr. Maggie Fehrman, Tasha White and Hans Utz. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur School Board, at its May 24 work session, continued discussing the district’s grading system and updates that will soon be made, like eliminating effort grades and zeros in the grade book, creating common assessments and shifting to using Infinite Campus for general grading.

The school board began discussing this topic at the April 26 work session. The grading scale, however, will remain the same for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.

“For next year, when it comes to the grading scale, there are no changes on the grading scale. K-5 will continue to use their four-point scale and 6-12 will continue to use their seven-point scale,” Superintendent Maggie Fehrman said.

The next phase in the process is to design the components and identify areas that are not as aligned as they should be, Fehrman added.

“Really what we want to do next year is now that we have these consistent practices identified, is make sure that we have universal alignment between our instructional and assessment practices and then communicating those assessment results to our families,” she said.

The school board will tackle the grading policy and procedures as well as any possible changes beginning in January 2023 to be implemented in the 2023-2024 school year.

Fehrman established a teacher task force to analyze CSD’s grading system and make recommendations for improvements to the grading system, practices and procedures, Fehrman said in her weekly newsletter on March 25.

“Some of the problems that need to be solved with our current grading practices include the need for transparency in our grading practices; the need for parents, students, and school leaders to have continuous and instant access to monitor student achievement and progress at all levels for all courses; and the need for our grading systems to be easily understood and explained,” Fehrman said in the newsletter. “Furthermore, in our most recent accreditation report, Cognia identified the effectiveness of grading practices and communication of grades as a growth area for our district. I believe that I am responsible for ensuring CSD has a grading system that is clear, easily understood, transparent, equitable, and helps students become leaders of their own learning.”

The equity in grading task force was charged with providing recommendations to Fehrman for a common district-wide grading scale. The task force has given their recommendations to the superintendent.

Throughout the earlier steps on this process, the district and the task force had to identify why they were embarking on this journey to update the grading system and create common agreements about grading and grading practices, including:

– Grades must be meaningful

– Grades must communicate student achievement and provide information for student growth,

– Grades should encourage students to try to make it to the next level

– Grades should be easily understood by parents and students, and

– Grades should be easily accessible.

“In the design phase, we are in the midst of building a [grading] practices and procedures manual that we will have ready to disperse at the beginning of the school year that will dig in and talk about when we say we’re not doing effort grades, they’re not going to show up on the report card, but we still do want to communicate to parents how students are doing in class when it comes to putting forth effort, when it comes to meeting potential,” Fehrman said.

The manual outline other options teachers could enter into the grade book besides a zero, how to assess group work, and how to eliminate extra credit but still provide re-teaching and reassessment opportunities.

School board member Hans Utz mentioned that parents have raised concerns about eliminating extra credit opportunities and wondered how the district can make sure students won’t be harmed by removing some opportunities for them to improve their grade, score and performance.

Fehrman added that because the district will use a new grade book tool, students will be able to easily view their ongoing progress and understand why they received a certain grade.

The school board will meet next on Tuesday, June 14, at 6:30 p.m. for a regular meeting.

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