SOLON – A new grading system in the Solon school district is causing some concerns for parents, who say “standards-based grading” — which reflects knowledge, not effort — is resulting in bad marks for good students.
“It sounds good in theory, and last year you read about it and it made sense,” said Karen Sherman, the mother of a Solon High School sophomore. “Now you’re looking at their grades and you’re saying, ‘What is happening here?’
“It’s just a big change. A lot of kids that were doing well are not doing so well.”
The Solon district is among the first in the state to use standards-based grading, which has the support of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration.
The goal is to put an emphasis on a student’s overall knowledge of the material, high school Principal Nathan Wear said. Nearly every teacher in the school is using the system, which was first introduced a few years ago.
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Students have to prove that they understand a number of topics or have mastered them throughout the semester. Teachers grade through a series of assessments, which can include tests, projects or activities. Students who score poorly can retake assessments to demonstrate gained knowledge later in the term.
“We think in this system students actually have a chance to improve their own GPAs,” Wear said.
A traditional grading system, he said, “doesn’t allow students to reassess or demonstrate further knowledge of their knowledge — it’s just kind of a one check and done, and they’re moving on to the next thing.”
Wear held several meetings with parents Thursday to discuss the matter. Many of the parents’ concerns centered around the emphasis on in-class assessments over homework.
“Homework is not counted towards your grade, so a lot of kids aren’t doing their homework because they don’t think it matters, so they’re not testing as well,” Sherman said.
Wear acknowledged that some issues still need to be worked through, but he said the new model “is the right option” for the district.
And though participants in sports and other extracurricular activities have to maintain a minimum level of academic performance, the district said no one’s eligibility has been revoked under the new system.