New grading reform in English department

The English Department instituted the new grading scale consisting of 80 percent summative assessments and 20 percent formative assessments for the 2017-18 school year.

Assistant Principal for Curriculum, Ms. Hurt, explained that formative assessments are those which teachers have frequently within a unit such as a vocabulary or reading quizzes. According to Ms. Hurt these smaller quizzes of lower point values better prepare students for the larger summative assessments.

“There’s been a lot of research about how more frequent assessments allow students to really understand where they are in that learning progression,” Ms. Hurt said. “It also let’s teachers know where [students] are in that learning progression.”

The goal of the grade reform is to help students know where they are in their learning. By taking smaller formative assessments before their large summative ones, students understand what they know well and what they need to work on.

Ms. Hurt explained that John Hattie, an educational researcher, coined the term visible learning. His philosophy is that students should know what their teacher’s expectations of them are and help them know where they are in their learning progression.

“It’s about communication between teacher and student, so that’s clearer about what’s expected and it’s about putting points where they matter,” said Mr. Lange, department chair of the English Department.

Mr. Lange said that the Curriculum Leadership Team, consisting of all the department chairs, had been talking about this reform for a couple of years prior to making the change. He said the English Department decided to lead the way as he felt it was an important change that needed to be made.

“The research on it nationally is pretty straight forward; that it’s good, that it’s useful, that it’s good for teachers, [and] it’s good for kids,” Mr. Lange said.

English teachers have reacted positively to the change in grading. Although it has not been an easy transition, Mr. Lange said he believes it was the right thing to do and puts weight on the right things in terms of grades.  

Mr. Lange also said that although students’ grades may be nearly a letter grade below their average in the beginning or throughout the quarter, it usually ends up going up toward the end of the quarter due to summative assessments.

“I find it a little difficult at some points because such small assignments will have a large impact on my grade,” said Sofia Malamazian, sophomore. “However, it’s also nice because on larger assignments it does help your grade a lot.”

Malamazian said that because even small summative assignments have such a large impact on her grade, her grade tends to fluctuate a lot throughout the quarter, which she says is stressful.

Malamazian also added that although it’s tougher, she did not see any change in her overall grade from last year in English to this year.

Grading reforms are a process and this one is here to stay. Ms. Hurt said she hopes that other departments will take up the new grading scale, making it school wide in the coming years.