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SJUSD begins overhauling grading policies

By Ashley Lee Apr. 28, 2021

To refine the current grading system that often focuses on deadlines and numbers, next year, San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) is planning to implement a new “Grading for Equity” policy that emphasizes students’ learning and growth mindset. Under this system that is yet to be finalized, the lowest grade a teacher can give is 50 percent, students who score lower than 70 percent on exams will be allowed to re-assess, extra credit policies will be reshaped and departments will standardize their grading guidelines.

According to Principal Peter Park, after distance learning began during the pandemic, it became apparent that equity and academic performance were major issues. The lack of internet connection for some students inhibited their learning and raised questions about fairness. The increasing number of students receiving Ds and Fs prompted the district to propose an improved grading system that would better represent and more fairly assess students’ learning.

This system is also intended to provide a greater number of educational opportunities for students.

This system is also intended to provide a greater number of educational opportunities for students. Park explains that it is easier for students to raise their grades from 50 percent than from zero percent, and he adds that having more re-assessments presents students with a second chance to properly demonstrate their knowledge.

The new policy will also modify another aspect of grades: extra credit. The new system aims to restrict extra credit assignments to only work that aligns with the curriculum. Mark Cahn, Science Department, explains that teachers may not be able to provide extra credit for activities such as donating canned food since such tasks do not correspond to their learning. In addition, to further ensure fairness, teachers in the same department will enforce the same grading standards, so the weight of different categories will be uniform across the department.

In order to successfully implement and prepare for the new grading system, teachers are completing a four-unit grading and equity training: two units will be completed before June, and the remaining units will be covered during summer break. According to Chris Barros, Social Science Department, the training is split into independent professional development classes and district-wide meetings, where teachers and administrators discuss ways to improve their grading methods.

Instead of giving students zeroes on missing assignments, Taylor gives half credit, and students are allowed to earn more points if they submit the work later on.

Although this system has not been administered on a district-wide level, some teachers such as Elizabeth Taylor, English Department, have already integrated some elements of the new grading policy. Instead of giving students zeroes on missing assignments, Taylor gives half credit, and students are allowed to earn more points if they submit the work later on. While both Fs, Taylor decided to implement this system because receiving half credit makes recovering from mistakes easier for students.

“This modified grading system is more forgiving and accounts for students’ responsibilities: some students need to work, have complex family dynamics or take care of their younger siblings. Students might also be facing problems like mental health issues or illnesses, so I began this new grading policy to be more mindful of my students’ personal lives and make learning as equitable as possible,” Taylor said.

By revising her class grading systems, Taylor has noticed that her students are less stressed, better equipped to succeed and more confident about their learning. Likewise, the district hopes to obtain similar results by pursuing a modified grading system that promotes equity and focuses on students’ development.

 

About the Contributors

Ashley Lee

Community News &

Feature School Editor


Ashley Lee is a junior at Leland High School and the Community News and Feature School page editor for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys baking, traveling, and trying new cuisine.

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