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Salem School Board to vote on new grading policy

Assigns grade at end of period instead of averaging over time

SALEM – The grading policy could change at Salem City Schools.  The changes are being voted on by the school board this week. 

Olympic swimmers like Michael Phelps win gold medals because they were the best that day. It's not all of their qualifying races added together.

It is that same philosophy Salem City Schools wants to be applied to grades in the classroom.

"Sometimes students when they struggle they tend to give up or kind of throw in the towel. The idea here is that we want to acknowledge growth over time so really if that student comes along and learns the content at a high-level they can still achieve that 'A' if they are willing to put in the work," said Curtis Hicks, Salem Schools assistant superintendent.

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Hicks says giving students a grade based on what they know at the end of the year instead of averaging projects, quizzes and tests along the way is becoming a popular topic in school divisions. The policy change is coming up for a vote updating current grading practices.

Middle and high school A's would mean students consistently demonstrate accurate and complete knowledge of course content, B's they know content and skills but some improvement is needed, C' s require additional practice and instruction, D's indicate a student need significant practice and instruction and F's indicate a student has not demonstrated basic knowledge in order to succeed.

Hicks says it's a shift they've eased into over the last few years but this defines it more.

Teachers have the option to still use averages and some teachers like averages because they can back up what grades students are getting.  But Hicks says averages don't reflect growth over time and this motivates students in a new way.

"It's really shifted the conversation away from points and to learning. Now instead of students coming to a teacher saying how many points do I need for the next letter grade to get a B, to get an A. Now students are coming to teachers saying how can I demonstrate to you that I've learned this. Can I have another opportunity to show you that I've learned this material?" said Hicks.

The shift over the last few years is already paying off. Hicks says students aren't saying "I don't know this" but now instead saying "I don't know this yet".  The idea is that eventually, teachers define what grades look like in their classrooms.

Link to policy changes is here.