Jackson report cards will reflect new grading approach

Staff Writer

JACKSON — Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, report cards for students at the Christa McAuliffe Middle School and the Carl W. Goetz Middle School will no longer display grades on a scale of A to F.

Instead, students’ grades will be reported on what school administrators believe to be a more straightforward numerical scale.

Both middle schools will make changes to their grading system one year after Jackson Liberty High School and Jackson Memorial High School made similar changes for the 2014-15 school year.

Jackson School District Director of Assessment Daniel Baginski said the upcoming changes largely stem from administrators’ findings that initial changes at the high schools were relatively painless for students.

“All of the feedback we have gotten has been positive in regard to the change,” Baginski said. “It really was a matter of taking down the conversion part, since students were used to receiving numerical grades each semester anyway.”

According to Baginski, middle school teachers and administrators saw the grading changes as a “desired change” and suggested they be implemented at the same time as the high schools.

“We held off because we did not want to make too many changes too fast and we wanted to make sure we went about it the right way,” he said.

At present, middle school grades are determined by assigning a numerical average for any given marking period and then converting that numerical average to a letter grade based on the district’s established scale.

Students receive an A+ for achieving an average of 98-100; an A for an average of 93-97; a B+ for an average of 90-92; a B for an average of 85-89; a C+ for an average of 82-84, a C for an average of 77-81; a D+ for an average of 74-76; a D for an average of 70-73; and an F for all averages below 70.

When it is time to determine a pupil’s grade point average, the letter grades are converted back to a numerical equivalent and the average of three marking periods and a final exam make up the student’s final grade.

Administrators said the issue with that system stems from the fact that in many cases the actual proficiency of a student in a specific subject gets lost in the conversions.

Because of the use of a computer system called Genesis, all letter grades are converted into a single number per grade, regardless of the actual grade received by the student.

According to administrators, when a student receives an F, he automatically gets a 64 regardless of his performance, which means a student who has a lower average is bumped up to a 64.

Under the current system, a student is able to determine the lowest grade that is required in order to pass at the end of the year.

With the changes that have been put into place for the 2015-16 school year, pupils will now receive an A for an average between 90 and 100; a B for an average between 80 and 89; a C for an average between 70 and 79; a D for an average between 65 and 69; and an F for all averages below 65.

At the high school level, students could receive a minimum score of 45 percent, which eliminated students’ ability to be able to rely on such a calculation.

The approved changes at the middle school level call for the minimum grade to be capped at 55 percent.

According to the changes, the lowest score considered to be a passing grade is 65 percent.

Baginski said the 10-point difference between high school and middle school minimum grades allowed for a “softer” change overall.

“We kind of thought that was important because in middle school, you do want to provide enough of a safety net for students who maybe have a bad marking period for whatever circumstance,” Baginski said. “You certainly don’t want to bury a student.”

While much of the discussion at a recent Board of Education meeting focusing on grading changes dealt with the failing grades of students, the middle school changes also altered the way pupils earn a place on the honor roll.

Previously, a student made the high honor roll if he earned two A’s in academic subjectsandnolessthanaBinanyother subject. A student made the honor roll if he earnednolessthanaBinanysubject.

Under the changes, a student must earn a 95 percent or higher in the core subjects of literacy, science, social studies, math, unified arts and physical education and a minimum of 85 percent in any elective subject to be considered a high honor roll student.

To earn honor roll recognition, a pupil must earn a 90 percent or higher in the core subjects and a minimum of 80 percent in any electives.

The criteria change for the honor roll was necessary, Baginski said, to drive home the level of commitment that is needed to achieve honor roll and high honor roll status.

“The [previous] criteria was much more liberal as far as recognizing students,” Baginski said. “There was a large percentage of our students achieving high honor roll; not that we don’t want to recognize our students, but we want to make sure it does have a distinction and a status for recognizing true excellence in the classroom.”

Looking forward, Baginski said administrators will make changes to the way educators in the elementary schools grade their students in the 2016-17 school year.

“[We are looking] at a move to a standards based report card, which is a pretty significant shift for our school district,” he said.

Teachers and parents at the elementary school level are being briefed on the upcoming changes, Baginski said.

“We want to make sure we do that as thoroughly as possible by giving ourselves as much time to do it as effectively as possible,” he said.