EYE OF THE TIGER’S VIEW: Use policy revision to standardize weight, tighten rigor




As the school district’s Continuous Improvement Leadership Team contemplates revising its grading policy, it should consider establishing department-specific grading policies and creating an AP environment that accurately reflects college rigor, while also standardizing the many aspects that make up a student’s grade. Then, once these guidelines are in place, RJUHSD must ensure teachers toe the new line.

While students can select courses, they cannot select teachers. And, currently, the district does not mandate uniform grading policies within departments. This leaves the responsibility to standardize grading policies to them and, depending on how departments exercise this, could allow teachers considerable discretion in how they set up their gradebooks.

That policy is not fair for students. A student shouldn’t struggle under the grading policy of a teacher they did not choose. Departments need to have uniform weighting to ensure students have equitable academic experiences regardless of the teacher.

After establishing uniform grading procedures, the district will need to adjust AP gradebooks within each department so their weights more closely simulate a college course in which exams commonly weigh the heaviest and late policies are rare.

RJUHSD students would benefit more from AP courses adopting this rigor rather than coupling high school classroom dynamics – such as test corrections, daily homework and lenient deadlines – with college-level material.

But if exams are going to sit heavily in gradebooks, quality control has to be in effect. Issue the same exams in all of that subject’s classrooms, and weigh them the same – heavily. A heavier weight and higher stakes with each exam will motivate AP students to prepare on their own, pay closer attention and pursue legitimate content mastery.

An AP class is supposed to replicate a college course, and that means the style of grading as well, not just the curriculum.

With programs like Student Government or band, this uniformity may not apply well across sites. Programs on each campus should continue to develop unique student cultures outside of a district grading standard.

If RJUHSD decides to retain some of the original grading policies, we still insist they truly enforce them. For example, the current extra credit policy suggests extra credit should relate to course objectives, be available to students and that all opportunities be laid out from the start of the semester.

The annual canned food drive has consistently doubled as an extra credit opportunity to incentivize generosity. An updated grading policy should aim to weed out extra credit opportunities like this that do not relate to curriculum and are not equally available to all students.

Additionally, the current grading policy allows peer grading to reinforce lessons at teacher’s discretion. This system’s role should be more closely defined within new guidelines: eliminate the possibility of using 30 minutes of class time to project an answer key and have students grade their partners’ quizzes without further instruction from a teacher.

If peer grading, theoretically, is supposed to reinforce lessons, the concept of teacher assistant grading should be obsolete. Although it is understandable for T.A.s to grade multiple choice tests, they should never be given the task to grade something subjectively. If they were to grade short answers, writing homework assignments or essays, it is likely that students would be graded on quantity rather than quality.

There will be many aspects to consider in developing a rehauled grading policy. It is important that RJUHSD creates open channels for community input as it goes forward.