Archive for Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New grading system causes problems for high school faculty

February 1, 2012

Bonner Springs High School teachers and officials with USD 204 are meeting to determine how to address problems with the district’s grading software at the high school level.

The software, called Skyward, was purchased last year and uses a standards-based, “total points” calculation for grades. However, most high school teachers use a weighted grading system, and while the district found a temporary fix the first semester of the school year, teachers have concerns about a recent decision to move to the total points system for the rest of the school year.

Ryan Hull, current president of the Bonner Springs Kansas National Education Association, and several other teachers attended the Jan. 23 USD 204 Board of Education meeting to ask the board to investigate the matter. Hull and other teachers told the board the change was actually a major change in ideology and could have a negative impact on some students’ grades.

“It loses the credibility of what we taught first semester,” Hull said. “Year-long courses and how grades are balanced going to be totally different.”

Susan Swabb, Spanish teacher, explained that teachers couldn’t make the change to total points that simply.

“It’s a completely different philosophy of grading,” she said.

Swabb said in the past, teachers have weighted grades, for example, saying that tests would be 40 percent of a student’s grade, homework 50 percent and a project 10 percent. In standards-based grading, every item a student works on has an equal value.

Teachers discovered the problem at the end of the fall semester when the system wasn’t averaging grades from each quarter. The math department and other district officials spent a great deal of time to create an excel spreadsheet to calculate the grades, Swabb said. She said some teachers purchased other gradebooks to make sure the grades were calculated correctly. Teachers had to tell parents that the grades they saw for their children online might not be correct.

Swabb said no other school district in the area is using a standards-based grading system at the high school level, and it really requires a different form of teaching and testing.

When the district purchased the Skyward system, it did so with the understanding that it would allow teachers to do a weighted system, Robert VanMaren, superintendent, said. He said Skyward wouldn’t be able to alter the software until the summer.

VanMaren said though the decision to use the total points calculation “would appear from the outside that we’re changing the horse in the middle of the stream,” the administrative team thought it was best to tell the students there would be one particular grading system for everyone for the rest of the year.

VanMaren said he believed there was a way to manipulate the system by making some items worth more points than others, but teachers asked that the district have further discussion on the matter.

The item has been placed on the school board agenda for Monday’s meeting.


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