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Eye of the Tiger

CILT revises grading policy

New grading policy revisions eliminates extra credit, new guidelines discourage zeroes

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Following a Continuous Improvement Leadership Team (CILT) meeting, the Roseville Joint Union High School District CILT has released a revised grading policy and grading guidelines book, both of which are still in the draft stage and open to revision.

Throughout last school year, CILT worked to revise Board Policy 5121.1, which serves as the district’s official grading policy. One of the most significant changes in the revisions is the elimination of extra credit.

RJUHSD assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruc-
tion Jess Borjon discusses grading policy revisions and the release of the grading guidelines guidebook. (SINO OULAD DAOUD/EYE OF THE TIGER)

According to RJUHSD assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Jess Borjon, the revision was made to address inconsistencies in grading practices for extra credit across the district.

“There’s an interesting approach to extra credit – that is that broadly varies,” Borjon said. “What we’re trying to do in the policy is try to minimize or eliminate that subjectivity and or the ability to create uneven playing fields.”

Science teacher Robert Mahlman grades students work in his chemistry class. Mahlman said extra credit is a reinforcer of positive behavior for students in his classes. (TRINITY COMPTON / EYE OF THE TIGER)

Science teacher Robert Mahlman doesn’t completely oppose eliminating extra credit, but appreciates the ability it grants teachers to reinforce positive behavior in class.

“I like to give extra credit for students who participate in class and encourage participation,” Mahlman said. “So I give participation points, which go towards extra credit. It usually isn’t a huge bump in someone’s grade, but I think having that as a way of reinforcing positive feedback in class is a good thing.”

English Teach Dean Gadway doesn’t necessarily see the “inclusion or exclusion” of extra credit as a big issue for the grading policy, given its minor effect on a class’ overall grade. (TRINITY COMPTON / EYE OF THE TIGER)

English teacher Dean Gadway said he rarely uses that opportunity and doesn’t believe that the “inclusion or exclusion” of extra credit as a huge issue in the grading policy given its minor effect on grades in his classes.

“Generally speaking, extra credit, if it ever happens, is a minor portion of any grade,” Gadway said. “It’s usually associated with a game we play or some bonus points on a small quiz. It’s really a tiny carrot meant to motivate students on difficult material.”

Principal David Byrd admits he used to give extra credit as a teacher, but agrees with the latest revisions to remove it from the grading policy. (FILE PHOTO/MARC CHAPPELLE)

RHS principal David Byrd admitted he used to give extra credit as a teacher, with restraint.

“I have to be honest, when I was teaching, I did small amounts of extra credit here and there,” Byrd said. “But…  I really did feel, like, look at the end of the day, the grade that I’m putting on a transcript is becoming this official document that’s supposed to be a reflection of what students have learned and how well they’ve learned it.”

In addition to the removal of extra credit, classes taken outside of the district may no longer be considered for weighted credit. Currently, classes taken outside the district can be considered for weighted credit if it meets “college elective courses with prerequisites.” With the current revisions, weighted credit would only be awarded to students taking certain RJUHSD classes.

The revisions still allow students to take classes outside of RJUHSD, such as at a local community college to fulfill graduation requirements, and still have the grade appear on their transcript. However, it won’t be considered for weighted credit.

According to Borjon, his plan is to continue the “vetting process” for the revised grading policy through this December. By Jan., he hopes to have a version ready for board approval and adoption. If it passes, the policy would be enforced the following school year.

In addition to the release of a revised grading policy, a new guidebook titled, “Grading Guidelines,” was released to teachers early in Sept. It’s purpose is to “inform and support teachers, students and parents in navigating the assessment and feedback process which result in student grades.”

With the guidebook in its second draft, there are currently certain lines that serve as points of contention for teachers. For example, it recommends teachers to consider the “mathematical discrepancy” of giving students a “zero” on assignments when designing their grading structure. In response, the guidebook encourages teachers to consider giving a 50% to serve as a “score holder for an ‘F.’”

Mahlman doesn’t fully support this recommendation and doesn’t believe in giving credit for work not turned in.

“If someone doesn’t do anything I don’t think they would deserve half credit,” Mahlman said. “So that’s something I think it still needs to be worked out.”

English teacher Jamie Handling said that students who don’t turn in work, shouldn’t receive any credit for it. (FILE PHOTO/GABI HUTSON)

English teacher Jamie Handling disagrees with the recommendation and doesn’t believe it as an accurate representation of a student’s academic performance.

“I feel like that gives even more of a discrepancy because if they don’t turn it in, they shouldn’t get a score for work not turned in,” Handling said. “Students shouldn’t receive scores for work that they don’t do, and to take that assignment out of the equation…  to me implies 50% of the work.”

According to Borjon, the reason behind this recommendation is to address the mathematical discrepancy between D’s and F’s. Unlike other letter grades that increase in ten percent increments, an F is an estimated 40 percent decrement from a D because of it’s zero percent value.  

“When you look at how a student gets a grade … it’s 10 percent increments,” Borjon said. “Well an F could be zero but that’s a huge drop from the D which is 60 percent. So while every increment in that grading scale is a 10 point increment, the question that’s mathematically being asked is, ‘Why does a student who gets a D versus an F half go from 60 percent or 62 percent to zero percent?’”

Despite this point of contention, the guidebook’s enforcement will not mirror those of the grading policy. Unlike the grading policy, the enforcement for the grading guidelines book will differ in that its purpose is for teachers to consider using its practices.

According to Byrd, teachers could use the guidebook to approach grading in a meaningful way.

“It’s more than just, ‘Hey here’s some good practices,’” Byrd said. “I think we should use that… to have a conversation and have a dialogue about what it really means to grade and evaluate students.”

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