More school systems are moving to adopt standards-based grading. The Westside and Council Bluffs school districts have it in place. So does Omaha Public Schools, which is adjusting it this year.
The grading approach is tied to national accountability efforts and aims to do a more accurate job of gauging individual student knowledge.
Because the grading approach notes a student’s academic improvement over the course of each semester, an early miscue by the student needn’t automatically be academically fatal.
One benefit, in other words, is that the new system aims to give students a fair opportunity to recover academically. The grading system provides them with an incentive to improve their performance.
It’s no surprise that the switch to standards-based grading usually produces controversy, though. It’s understandable that parents and students accustomed to the traditional system of A, B, C and D generally aren’t keen to abandon it in favor of a four-point or five-point scale.
If ever there were a topic where schools need to avoid the use of jargon and other vague terminology, it’s when they’re attempting to explain standards-based grading. Yet school systems often stumble by failing to explain the grading system in clear, understandable language that parents and students — and teachers — can readily understand.
It’s important that schools meet that challenge. Effectively communicating what the grading system is about enhances the chances for buy-in from parents. That’s a huge help in allowing the school system to move forward.