RJUHSD revisions may unify grading, restrict extra credit
CILT first draft emphasizes content mastery, puts extra credit on backburner
April 3, 2017
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In its first-draft grading policy revision, the Roseville Joint Union High School District proposed a uniform grading standard that emphasizes mastery learning – a grading structure that prioritizes performance-based assignments – and may, in part, prohibit teachers from offering extra credit.
A guiding principle of the grading revisions, mastery learning places a focus on tests and assessments – and away from homework, classroom participation and extra credit.
Assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Jess Borjon believes that prioritizing mastery learning provides a more accurate measure of student performance. Executive director of curriculum and instruction Suzanne Laughrea agrees with this and believes assignments such as homework shouldn’t be a deciding factor in determining grades and measuring student performance.
“You might need a little bit of practice with it, but often times there’s no reason to do like one through 80 problems at night,” Laughrea said. “Because once you’ve done like three or four, you’re like ‘I know how to do this.’ But I think we really need to think and re-examine how much homework is given and really if there is a point to it.”
The revised grading policy is part of a culminating effort at the district level to address concerns regarding grading consistency, Laughrea said.
“We need to be more consistent,” Laughrea said. “We need to have some agreement about what we’re going to grade kids on and how they’re going to be graded, and I think [we need] to be fair to students, so that they know what to do to get an A.”
The district’s Continuous Improvement Leadership Team (CILT) – which in the last year has reviewed grading policy through expert’s research and collaboration with other districts, looking for practices applicable to RJUHSD – is using its research to inform RJUHSD grading revisions.
Junior Cyrena Le is taking three Advanced Placement (AP) classes this semester and favors classroom grading focusing more on assessments and exams rather than homework.
“We are tired and super busy,” Le said. “Homework honestly shouldn’t be as important as your test scores. It shouldn’t be boosting your grade.”
Focusing on student performance based on mastery of content also played a role in removing extra credit from the most recent revisions. Current grading policy says extra credit should be “directly related to course objectives.” However, it doesn’t specifically state how it should connect to course objectives, allowing teachers broad interpretation.
Junior Natalie Bennett, however, appreciates the added incentive and believes that extra credit can promote an increased work ethic.
“If it has to do with the class, then it can really help you out because you can learn more while you’re adding an extra credit to your grade,” Bennett said. “So it helps you out. I like it.”
However, some teachers reward extra credit to students for non-academic purposes, such as donating items to a can drive or bringing in school supplies. Borjon disagrees with this practice and cites bathroom passes as an example for a flaw of extra credit.
“If you have to go to the bathroom, don’t think that you’re going to lose points because you’re going to the bathroom,” Borjon said. “That shouldn’t have anything to do with how you’re doing in my biology class or how you’re doing in my integrated two class.”
Borjon said it is possible they could re-introduce extra credit, but with a framework addressing academic performance.
Laughrea believes extra credit will be completely removed and can be replaced by better alternatives.
“My guess is extra credit will be gone,” Laughrea said. “And so what we need to make sure we have in place is that kids have opportunities to retest, to rewrite, to come in for tutoring and to have an alternative way to show that they mastered the content.”
Borjon wants input from teachers in order to make any necessary revisions before the revised grading policy is submitted for board approval. Because of this, he shared the latest proposal with all district teachers and asked them for feedback.
“We think we’ve cleaned it up,” Borjon said. “We made some additions to it, not many, but it was more addition by subtraction process than anything.”
If all goes well, Borjon hopes to have a final draft of a revised grading policy by next year. If approved, it would likely be implemented the following year.