D211 Post: Introduction to Grading Improvements

District 211 logoA message from Superintendent Dan Cates …

(reprinted from the July/August 2017 Superintendent’s Newsletter)



Just for a moment, consider what you believe a report card grade should represent. Most of us can likely agree that a grade serves to communicate a student’s performance within a given course. Though grading might initially seem uncomplicated and straightforward, opinions differ widely about characteristics that should or should not factor into a final grade. Complexities associated with grading continue to merit extensive interest and study in countless articles, books, and professional seminars.

Input gathered during the community engagement sessions led us to thoroughly review our grading practices. Throughout the last school year, many people worked extensively to identify how we could improve and ensure the meaningfulness, consistency, accuracy, and timeliness of our grades. Each semester, we issue approximately 360,000 final grades, totaling about 720,000 official grades per year. Individual grades for daily homework, quizzes, and tests all factor into these final semester grades, bringing the total number of grades assigned each year easily into the many millions.

We must ensure that students and parents can understand a student’s performance through the grades we assign. Earlier this summer, I sent a message encouraging you to watch for upcoming communications about our grading improvements and in this column, I will briefly introduce some of the improvements we will implement in the upcoming school year.


Consistent Grade Reporting System

Recognizing that each student’s teachers might use a different reporting system in the electronic gradebook – for example, some use points or percentages while other use letter grades – all teachers in the same school will use the same grade reporting system. This consistency will make it easier for parents and students to read and understand the grade information found in Infinite Campus.


Timing of Grades

Rather than assigning grades every nine weeks, we will now issue an in-progress grade report stating the student’s current letter grade status in each course at the 6-week and 12-week points of each semester. We will no longer have the 9-week quarter grades or the 4½-week mid-term progress reports. Eighty percent of the final semester course grade will be based on performance throughout the 18-week semester. As in the past, 20% of the final grade will be based on the semester exam. This semester grading system is similar to the typical collegiate grading system.


Improved Progress Comments

Teachers recently created improved performance comments for the 6- and 12-week in-progress grade reports and semester report cards so the statements are more meaningful to students and parents. The improved progress comments describe academic behaviors as well as communication skills, attitude, work ethic, timeliness, problem solving skills, teamwork, and flexibility demonstrated in the classroom. These “soft skills” are frequently required in employment settings and are helpful habits and skills to practice during high school.


Course Syllabus

Each teacher will provide every student with an informative course syllabus that conveys the expectations and requirements of the course.


We all get better when we work together. To help ensure that every student and parent fully understands the improvements in our grading practices, you will continue to receive information through additional communications leading up to the start of the school year.

Message from the Superintendent – A Look At Grading

(A reprint of the Superintendent’s Message from the January/February Superintendent’s Newsletter)
As we begin the second semester, I wish each of you a Happy New Year in 2017.  We continue to develop numerous important initiatives in District 211 and I want to focus awareness on our work in the area of grading.  Along with this newsletter, parents and students received a report card conveying the final grades earned for every course completed during the first semester.  Grades are central to much of what we do as educators and it is essential that we continually review, improve and communicate our practices in partnership with students and parents.
Regardless of one’s age or role, everyone has received grades of some kind and – knowingly or unknowingly – most people have a conception about what they think a grade should represent.  Grades are easily recognized for their universal nature, but grades are not always well understood for the complexity in their underlying assumptions or for the varying means and methods available to communicate an appraisal of student performance. 
Last year through our community engagement sessions, we gathered input from students, parents and school personnel about grading.  A committee of teachers and school leaders also met throughout the past year to examine potential grading improvements.  Drawing upon this comprehensive feedback, throughout the first semester faculty members and school leaders conducted extensive reviews of our grading practices, including: our grading scales, the electronic gradebook, the timing of grades, homework completion, final exams, mid-term reports, missing assignments, our critical learning standards and others. 
Diligent work among our educators to identify potential grading improvements will continue in the coming months.  A top priority for the upcoming semester is the articulation of recommended grading practices which will set the course for professional development among our educators, students and parents to ensure an understanding of the rationale guiding our improvements and how the implementation of our grading improvements will benefit students. 
Thousands of professional articles, books and conference seminars center on the topic of grading.  Within the professional field of education, opinions, beliefs and conclusions about grading often differ, and I have found these differences to exist in just about every conversation with any group of teachers, parents and students.  Our pursuit of continuous improvement includes our grading practices and though differing ideas will likely remain, communicating a clear understanding of our recommended grading improvements will benefit all of us in our work together.
Daniel E. Cates