Sat04192014

Schools

High school grading changes concern MVLA parents


Photo By: Photos By Traci Newell/Town Crier
Photo Photos By Traci Newell/Town Crier

Mountain View High School parents and students pack the school’s library, above and left, Feb. 4 to share their experiences with changes in grading policy.

While the most recent results of a change in grading policy for students in the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District are positive, parents have found the grading implementation challenging.

The district adopted the new policy last spring after a yearlong review by the District Assessment Task Force Committee, comprised of 25 students, parents and staff members. At the end of the fall semester, the district revealed that teachers recorded 236 fewer F grades and 1 percent more A grades, the first report since the changes were enacted.

The new policy requires teachers in the same course level to coordinate grading by weighing assignments, homework policies, extra credit and grading scales and apply a common definition of “proficiency.” As a result, a student could earn an A in English for achieving a percentage of 90-100, but that same student could receive an A in geometry with a percentage of 85-100. Each class defines its own Class Information Sheets outlining the grading specifics.

Parent feedback

Despite the quantifiable success of the policy, Mountain View High School parents expressed their concerns at a Feb. 4 meeting convened to solicit input.

“Parent and student involvement was key (in designing the new policy),” said Tim Farrell, a social studies teacher at Mountain View High who served on the task force. “As we have moved through the implementation, which has been sporadic and challenging, we made the mistake of not having continuing student and parent input.”

Farrell, Mountain View High Principal Keith Moody, district Superintendent Barry Groves and Assistant Superintendent Brigitte Sarraf attended the hourlong meeting, which drew more than 150 parents.

Parents said they found it harder to decipher grades when teachers grade differently. For example, if parents have two students at the school and each one has six classes, then parents must track the grading protocols in 12 different courses.

“I think the goal is consistency,” said one parent. “I think there are so many grading systems. Now we have the Advanced, Proficient, Basic. I have no idea how my son is really doing. If you could go back to percentages, I think that would be huge.”

The calculations surrounding how to achieve an A versus an A+ is also confusing, parents said, leaving the perception that teachers are handing out fewer A+’s.

Many in attendance were parents of students earning A’s and B’s – not students who were no longer receiving F’s. They were primarily concerned about changes that affected their higher-performing students.

“There are too many things to learn,” one parent said. “My daughter has had five different policies in redo assignments. It is too hard to manage for the kids. I’m talking about the kids who are going for the A’s and B’s. They now have more stress and work.”

Moody and Farrell said they appreciated the feedback.

“You have all hit upon the clarity and consistency across the system,” Moody said. “We are working on something that is more uniform, and I think we should look at doing more nights like tonight.”

Farrell, a former Mountain View High student, said he invested time in the grading policy project as a way to engage parents.

“One of the reasons I have dedicated so much time with this is to empower parents,” he said. “Right now, the implementation is on a course-team-by-course-team basis. The teachers have to choose to give up more autonomy and have more accountability. Whatever you folks can do to nudge that process along, every teacher has to choose to better align the grades.”

Groves said he was pleased with the results of the new grading policy and sees the rollout process as the problem.

“What I hear are issues with the implementation,” he said. “What we can do as a district is create a little more uniformity so that when you look at something, you will better be able to understand it.”

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