Several parents described their frustration over a series of changes to Clintonville High School’s grading policy at the school board meeting Monday, Feb. 24.
High School Principal Lance Bagstad gave a presentation to the board regarding the new grading system, which was implemented this past fall.
He said the system has changed several times over the course of the first semester.
“Almost four years ago, teachers began to discuss the grading system that was in place,” Bagstad said. “We wanted to know where our standards should be set, so we began to look at everything. There is a committee being formed to look at the ‘soft’ aspects of the grading system—things like attendance, effort, attitude, and behavior.
“Last year, 15 percent of a student’s final quarter grade was homework; 85 percent came from tests, projects, essays, and presentations,” said Bagstad. “This year, the homework aspect was not included in the grading system. Any homework that was assigned was not graded.
“We implemented a re-take policy so that students who scored poorly on a test could have another shot at it. We found that some students would not try as hard the first time, knowing that they could re-take it and keep the better score,” explained Bagstad.
“We’re trying to raise the bar and move towards a higher standard, so we’re moving away from a system of completion to a system of competence,” he continued. “We’ve implemented a ‘G’ grade, which will be based on growth that a student has made in a class.
“The grade is designed to be used in situations where a student has come to a class with a lower ability level, but has shown major growth towards achieving the standards of learning that are expected,” explained Bagstad in a memo distributed to teachers regarding the ‘G’ grade policy. “In addition, this same student, although showing growth, could still not reach the 70 percent threshold to receive a ‘C’ in the class even after they re-took all of the expected summative assessments in a timely manner. The ‘G’ grade is designed to offer the opportunity to give the student the credit for the class based on the teacher’s professional judgment of growth on a case-by-case basis. This ‘G’ grade is not intended to replace the old ‘D’ grade and will not be given based solely on any percentage earned in a class.”
Bagstad went on to list the following features of the ‘G’ grade:
• A student receiving a ‘G’ grade would earn the one-half credit for the course for that semester;
• The ‘G’ grade would be worth a 1.0 grade point for calculating the cumulative GPA;
• A student may only be given a ‘G’ grade if they have completed all required work and all re-takes within the prescribed times set forth in other portions of the grading policy;
• The ‘G’ grade would only be issued at the end of a semester, provided growth has occurred and all other course expectations have been met. This grade would be entered as an override grade for the final semester grade;
• The ‘G’ grade would appear on a student’s transcript as a ‘G’;
• A student would be able to retake the class in the future to earn an ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’ if they wish to do so;
• A student receiving a ‘G’ grade will still be placed in restricted study hall, as it will still be important for the student to focus on their studies rather than having the privileges that come with regular or honors study hall; and
• A letter of explanation will be drafted by administration to be included with all transcripts sent to post-secondary institutions, employers, and/or the military explaining the grading policy, including the explanation regarding the ‘G’ grade.
“Obviously, there could be a great deal of subjectivity to this grade,” added Bagstad. “However, (the teacher’s) professional responsibilities and integrity will allow for us to have this subjective grade, as I am confident that everyone will use this grade only when it is appropriate. Again, this grade is not based solely on a percentage and should not be based on a kid ‘playing school’. This grade should be based on growth of that student in the course and should never be used if a student has not met all of the requirements and expectations for completing all required assessments.”
Bagstad said that if a student scores lower than a 70 percent on a test, they must re-take it, otherwise they get a 0.
In the second semester, Bagstad said graded homework will be reintroduced as a percentage of a student’s grade.
“There are similar grading policies in place in Marinette, Marion and De Pere,” said Bagstad. “Other schools are asking about ours. I’ve received several calls from administrators who are interested in what we are doing. Chris Van Hoof spoke to me about it, and it will be presented to CESA 8.
“The whole idea is to set expectations and move kids forward,” concluded Bagstad. “Tests aren’t the only element of the summative assessment; it’s skill demonstration. Students who are struggling can request to meet with teachers during our daily half-hour of intervention time. Teachers can also request to meet with students. We’ve had over 5,000 teacher requests to meet with students during intervention times so far this year.”
Though Bagstad highlighted many of the positive aspects of the new system, the parents at the meeting expressed frustration over information not being communicated to them in a timely manner.
“Several schools may be using this system, but are they having success?” asked Donna Krueger. “I’m glad you’re bringing back homework. My two kids are both at the high school, and not having homework eliminates parents’ involvement. When it comes to re-taking tests, teens run hot and cold. What if they forget to do the re-take? There’s no fairness in giving them a 0 for not re-taking the test when they had at least earned some percentage the first time around.”
Bagstad said homework was brought back to help with parent involvement complaints, and he also said kids are usually reminded that they need to re-take a test—they just sometimes choose not to.
“The information on the new grading system needs to be spelled out and sent out to parents,” said Krueger.
“Parents were not informed of the changes that have occurred this year,” said Deb Kamp-Schroeder, another concerned parent. “The kids were told, but that information never made it home. I feel like you’ve made the kids guinea pigs to see what works. There have been changes every couple of weeks this last semester. I wish parents would have been informed. I wish this new policy had been implemented with one or two classes, not all six or seven.”
“I wish you would have stopped in and talked to me about these things,” replied Bagstad, while admitting that information on changes to the grading system was not effectively communicated to parents.
“Honors kids can’t always get help when they need it because the teachers are always busy with other kids during intervention time,” said Jamie Kriewaldt, another parent.
“That’s the first time I’ve heard that,” responded Bagstad.
“I’m glad homework is back,” added Kriewaldt. “Students need regular feedback. Are teachers required to give homework?”
“There is some teacher discretion with regard to assigning homework,” answered Bagstad. “Parents should contact teachers and administrators so we can follow up on the issues. Please call us rather than emailing us, as sometimes messages get caught in our spam filter and we never see them.”
“Homework is a valuable tool for learning,” said teacher Steve Emslander. “It should be graded. The test re-takes have helped immensely.”
“Teachers are overburdened,” said Schultz. “They’re not miracle workers. The teaching mode has increased too much. This new system is very good, but we need more time for interventions.”
Board members agreed that this subject should be revisited. The end of the next quarter is April 2, and board members asked that another discussion be held at the last school board meeting in April. That meeting will be held on Monday, April 28.