Bottom Line Up Front (but read to the end for important background information):
Due to an outcry from students and parents (and we hope teachers and administrators behind the scenes), the recently revamped BCPS Grading and Reporting Procedures were amended as of 11/1/16. Here are the changes and a related article: Towson Flyer: Baltimore County schools amending new grading policy
These amendments were published directly after the 10/31 forum on the new policy held by BCPS Community Superintendents. Principals and certain parents were invited to attend and provide feedback.
The Rest of the Story
As noted in our one blog post for the month of June (it was the summer!), the BCPS grading policy underwent a major revision effective 7/1/16.
In early August, schools reached out to parents to explain that in 2014 (when STAT was implemented), a grading and reporting committee made up of parents, teachers, and administrators:
” … reviewed grading and reporting practices from across the state and the nation. Based on the information gathered, the committee determined the policy needed to be rewritten to reflect more current research-based practices to better align your child’s grades with his/her achievement of grade-level standards. To that end, the new Board of Education Policy 5210 Grading and Reporting was approved in June of 2015 for full implementation beginning August, 2016.”
” … all student grades will align to identified course or grade-level standards and be based on a “body of evidence.” A body of evidence is simply the information a teacher collects to determine a student’s level of performance. In addition to making sure grades are based on evidence aligned to standards, (BCPS) wants to ensure that the purpose for assigning grades is clear and consistent across all schools. To do this, BCPS established that the primary purpose for determining marking period grades is to accurately communicate a student’s level of achievement in relation to the course expectations at a given point in time.”
(NOTE: This is key to Mastery-Based Education and computer-delivered curriculum)
“The school system commits to providing equitable, accurate, specific, and timely information regarding student progress towards course expectations which includes feedback to you and your child in order to guide next steps and indicate areas growth areas. To promote alignment to research-based practices and stakeholder input, the committee oversaw the creation of a procedures manual, which is broken down into six guiding practices:
- Grading practices must be supportive of student learning.
- Marking-period grades will be based solely on achievement of course grade-level standards.
- Students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency.
- Grades will be based on a body of evidence aligned to standards.
- A consistent grading scale will be used to score assignments and assessments.
- Accommodations and modifications will be provided for exceptional learners.”
This sounds somewhat reasonable and child-centered in theory, except for the fact that ASCD is all over this Research & Rationale, which makes them suspect:
The Sun wrote an article about it, as did the Towson Flyer. Dr. Dance felt obliged to write an op-ed in the Sun. BCPS devoted a website page to it; highlights included a video and a MythBusters List.
As the school year rolled out, unprepared teachers, parents, and students began to realize what was going on and were not happy. One parent started a petition to rescind the new grading procedures. Another parent wrote a must-read op-ed about it: Towson Flyer: What’s Behind BCPS’ New Grading Policy?
National ed-blogger Emily Talmage has written about grading policies like BCPS’: Is Your District Changing its Grading Policy? Here’s the Real Reason Why.
Take the time to read the Towson Flyer op-ed and Talmage’s piece; you’ll understand why the BCPS Grading and Reporting Policy had to change to enable “anytime, anywhere learning.”
Also read this from iNACOL, the International Association of K-12 Online and Blended Learning. iNACOL has a baby named Competency Works, which offered a detailed report on grading changes needed for Competency-based Education (STAT).
“Any school that has begun the journey toward competency education, breaking free of the limitations of the time-based system, will eventually come face-to-face with grading policies and practices. Along with the excitement of creating a new grading system that ignites a dynamic culture of learning will come opportunities to engage students, families and the community in creating a shared vision about the purpose of school. Challenging the traditional system of grading practices, rooted firmly in the American culture with its exhilarating A+ to the dreadful F, will prompt questions, fears, and misconceptions. There are likely to be lively community meetings and even a letter or two in the local newspaper. There will also be the mutual delight when a competency-based grading system is put into place that allows students and teachers to work together toward a shared vision of learning. Most importantly, there will be cause to celebrate as students make progress toward proficiency.”