Grading FAQ's

Middle School Grading Guidelines

Work Habits Rubrics

Rocky Heights Middle School Standards - Based Grading FAQ's 

How does this system prepare students for high school and college? 
Preparation for high school and college is built upon knowledge, skills and work habits. The grading system clearly communicates to students and parents what knowledge, skills and work habits are firmly in place. Performance in middle school is one critical predictor of success in high school and college. Students who meet standards and demonstrate effective work habits will likely succeed in high school. Those who don't won't. Additionally, high school reform efforts are focused on increasing the rigor of college bound students in high school. This statewide initiative will have an impact on both course selection and proficiency requirements as prescribed by the Colorado Commission of Higher Education. 

How does my child get an 'A' in a class? How does one "exceed" the standard? 
A student's performance beyond the standard should be defined in each course and communicated to students and parents minimally at the beginning of the grading period and ideally (at least for the students) each time a student is asked to demonstrate his/her learning. There should be performance rubrics in place as well as exemplars of student work available that exceed the standard so that students know the target they are to "exceed."

If my child does everything that is expected of him/her, then why does that only earn a 'B'? 
The grading system allows for students to go beyond what is typically expected as defined by the standards/checkpoints. Students learn at varying rates, paces and levels of complexity. We have always been able to articulate when a student performs above this expected level. Earning an "A" in a course has typically denoted student achievement level beyond the expected. In a standards-based system, it is important that teachers communicate levels of performance in relationship to the standard and not to other students. In our grading system, doing what is expected (i.e. a 'B') signifies that a student has met the standard.

How does this system align with GPA requirements for Honor Roll and National Junior Honor Society? 
The system is in complete alignment with eligibility requirements for the National Junior Honor Society. As a matter of fact, RHMS's requirements for NJHS have been and will continue to be set above the national minimum. As far as Honor Roll is concerned the requirements for this year have been modified to reflect the definitions in the grading guidelines.

What are the requirements for Purple and Silver Honor Roll?  
Qualification for our Silver or Purple Honor Roll is determined by the student's GPA (called Term GPA - Printed on the report card).  This is calculated on Content Knowledge grades.  Work Habit Grades are not calculated into the GPA.  Each letter grade has a value associated with it.  That break down is as follows:
A=4; B=3; C=2; D=1

Please take note that our Administration has determined that in promoting excellence in academics at Rocky Heights, students that receive a "C" or below in either Content Knowledge and/or Work Habits in any class, will not be eligible for Honor Roll.

The break point for honor roll is:
Silver Honor Roll = 3.50 - 3.74
Purple Honor Roll = 3.75 - 4.0

I don't understand "most recent evidence," most comprehensive evidence," or "most important learning goals. "Why aren't grades just "averaged?" 

Because the purpose of standards-based grading is to report what students know and are able to do, averaging does not necessarily present an accurate picture of where a student is in his learning. A student who struggles in a class at the beginning of a grading period and receives poor grades, but who keeps working and by the end of the grading period can clearly demonstrate competence in the subject, should receive a grade that reflects that competence. For example, it's a good thing that the decision as to whether the Broncos win or lose a game is not determined based on the average of how they practice during the week. It is only the most recent evidence (or performance), the game, which counts. Please read this portion of a chapter from the book, The Leader's Guide To Standards: The average is a fixture in most grading systems and many secondary schools have even institutionalized it, using computer programs that require use of the arithmetic mean, or average, of grades throughout each quarter, semester, and year. This is strange in a standards-based school, particularly since every middle school mathematics standard in the nation requires sixth and seventh grade students to understand that the mean is not always the best measurement of central tendency. This is why they must learn about the median and mode; the mean (average) does not always represent the data accurately. The teachers of these students and the leaders of their schools must meet the same standards. Consider two students, Stewart and Maria. Stewart comes to school fresh from summer camp and complacently strolls through the semester with these weekly scores: 85, 85, 85, 85, 85, 85, 85, 85, and 85. The average is not difficult to calculate, and Stewart happily settles for his "gentleman's B". Maria struggles for everything she has learned and turns in this performance: 50, 60, 65, 70, 80, 85, 90, 90, and 90. Maria's average (mean) of a little over 75 will, depending on the grading scale, allow her to take home a C or D on her report card if the teacher is slavishly devoted to the average, even though any fair observer would note that she is a better mathematician and a more responsive learner than Stewart.

Why is this system of grading better than the system used previously? What is the research that supports its use? 
It would not be a productive exercise to characterize this grading system as better or worse. This system is different because it is based upon criteria aligned to a standard and clearly seeks to separate what a student knows and is able to do from the contributing work habits. The intention is to provide greater consistency across the district as to what a letter grade represents as well as to provide greater clarity of communication about student performance to both parents and students. Nevertheless, there is much current literature that supports standards-based grading. (See the bibliography enclosed with this packet.)

Please explain the discrepancy between content knowledge grades and work habits grades. How can my child get an 'A' in one and a 'C' in the other? 

There are very different criteria that go into each area. It is most likely that a student who has very good work habits will also demonstrate that s/he has learned more and will likely produce good content knowledge performance and grades. However, I think that we have all known someone who doesn't have to work hard and still gets good grades while we must labor intensely to just get by. The contrary can also occur. That is, there are those who work extremely hard, but their understanding is not complete enough to be rewarded with the good grade.

What's the difference between a 'C' and a 'D,' if neither actually "meets" the standard? 
The descriptor for each of these grades is very different. You are correct that neither meets the standard. However, a 'C' indicates that the student is progressing toward meeting the standard and, if he continues to work at it, will likely become proficient. On the other hand, a 'D' indicates that the student is not making appropriate progress toward meeting the standard. Additionally, such a student will need interventions to be put in place in order to make the necessary progress toward meeting the standard.

Exactly what does an 'I' mean? 
The 'I' actually stands for "Insufficient evidence." When a student receives an 'I' in a class, the teacher is essentially saying that s/he does not have enough evidence, in hand, to be able to make an informed decision about how the student is performing based on the criteria in the standards and checkpoints. The reason the teacher doesn't have the evidence could be the result of an extended absence by the student or that the student simply has not turned in enough work for the teacher to make a good decision. In either case, the student may still provide the missing evidence in order to receive a grade (A, B, C, D). If at the end of a quarter, this would need to be completed no later than one week into the next quarter. If the work is not completed, then the grade remains an 'I'.

What's wrong with having a student fail if he hasn't done the work -or- (conversely) why is it that my kid doesn't have to do homework and still pass the class? 
In traditional grading, when a student receives a failing grade (an 'F'), more often than not, the incentive to continue to learn will go with it. Hopelessness sets in. "What's the use. I'm failing anyway." In our system, our desire is to never let a student feel that there is no hope. Even the grade of 'D', which indicates that standards have not been met, will trigger interventions to commence which are designed to give the student the help s/he needs to be successful. The answer to the second part of this question is easier to understand. Passing a class is not tied to the completion of homework. It is based on the demonstration of knowledge and understanding of the standards and checkpoints embedded in the class.