School Board updated on standards-based grading

During a work session last week, Chesterfield County Schools Superintendent Dr. Marcus J. Newsome said that the school system discovered that an “A” at one school in biology was a “C” at another; that within a school an “A” in biology was in fact a “D” in its English department.

During the work session, the Chesterfield County School Board was briefly updated by the county’s Grading Practices Committee on their efforts in assessing the benefits of standards-based grading – something the school system may integrate in years to come.    

“We looked at that grading distribution itself. What we want is a child who moves from one school or one content area to the other to have consistency… We want one grade to measure that the value is consistent and not at the judgment of individuals to determine what their value is, but that it’s a universal standard,” said Dr. Newsome.         

 Representing the committee, and updating the School Board on their recent research and discussions on the matter, Dr. Jeremy Lloyd, director of curriculum and instruction forthe Chesterfield County school system, provided a brief overview of standards-based grading to the Board.

“The essence, I think, of standards-based grading is you set out at the beginning of the year or the beginning of the grading period, and you have certain things you want the students to accomplish.”

According to Dr. Lloyd’s presentation to the Board, elements of standards-based grading advocate that: a grade should communicate achievement; standards-based grading is appropriate with standards-based curriculum (SOLs); grades should be based on clearly defined performance standards; average grades need to be calculated appropriately; grades should support student learning.

One aspect Dr. Lloyd championed of the grading system was its impact on the consistency of grading assessments.               

“Now consistency, when you talk about consistency,” he said, “that opens up a huge can of worms because even if teachers are grading the curriculum standards, they might give different tests that are not going to be exactly the same … They might have different methods for averaging the grades. There’s a lot of different ways that consistency can start to disappear.”                             

School Board Chair and Clover Hill District representative Dianne Pettitt commented on the issue as well: “We sometimes hear from parents about ‘my child moved from here to there in the county and all of a sudden their grades were impacted,” commenting that the school policy talks about implemeting common standards within the school system.            

Dr. Lloyd said, the “bottom line” is that by next spring the committee hopes to have, after incorporating parents’ suggestions, recommendations for the School Board, but in the meantime are researching and considering the effect of standards-based grading in other school systems.

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