Teachers in the Omaha Public Schools have had to go old school with their new grading system this fall.
Because of a glitch in the district's grading software, OPS middle school and high school teachers can no longer hit a button to average a student's scores. Instead, they have to manually calculate the average of dozens of scores.
The manual work has added 10 to 12 hours of grading to teachers' workloads, said Chris Proulx, president of the Omaha Education Association, the OPS teachers union.
“Unequivocally, every teacher was saying something has to change,” he said.
OPS officials aren't sure why the system stopped averaging but think it's related to an automatic update from the grading software, Infinite Campus.
“It just wouldn't calculate,” said ReNae Kehrberg, assistant superintendent for curriculum and learning.
She said the system will again average students' scores by the second semester; officials didn't want to make a change in the middle of the fall semester.
The averaging fix will be a relatively minor internal tweak to the three-year-old “standards-based grading” system. The system is intended to show what students know from mostly projects and tests, with less weight given to other factors such as homework, class behavior or participation.
OPS's grading system was overhauled in 2010, and officials altered the lower end of the grading scale used in the system before the last school year.
This fall, teachers have switched from using a 5-point grading scale to a 4-point scale, which matches up better with the traditional 4.0 scale that high schools use to calculate grade-point averages.
“The biggest problem now will be dealing with another change,” Proulx said.
Districts across the country and the metro area, including the Westside Community Schools, have switched to variations of the system.
This fall, Westside discontinued a year-old grading system at Westside Middle School and returned to its traditional letter grade report card.
Its teachers in kindergarten through sixth grade, however, still use a standards-based reporting system.
For those teachers, the district has turned off the averaging function on the grading software, said Sue Evanich, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
Teachers are to calculate the students' grades based on projects or tests toward the end of the term, Evanich said. Teachers can use their professional judgement and override that calculation as well, she said.
In Council Bluffs, which also uses a version of standards-based grading, teachers mostly average students' work, said Ann Mausbach, the district's executive director of curriculum and instruction.
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