Colleges give standards grading an ‘A’ |

Colleges give standards grading an ‘A’

Jim Noelker/Post Indepenndent Photo

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” All of Roaring Fork School District’s high schools will put an innovative grading system into action this fall.

They’ll be joining the district’s elementary and middle schools in a major shift in grading.

But even with the change, college-bound students will continue to apply to higher-education institutions using today’s traditional A, B and C letter-grade reporting.

Students’ grades will still be based on a 4.0 grade point average, and transcripts will still include class rankings ” all important components of a college application.

“As far as students, parents and colleges go, they’ll still see the same report card information, with course names and letter grades, as they always have,” said Glenwood Springs High School principal Mike Wells.

College ad-missions officials said the new standards-based grading system will help colleges get a much clearer picture of each student’s knowledge and skill level.

“Standards-based grading will give us more information,” said Kevin MacLennan, associate director of admissions at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “We’re going to get the true story on each student.”

“We have a great experience with this district’s kids,” said Bill Young, an admissions administrator at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, of Re-1 students who attend the state engineering university. “From what I understand, the standards-based grading the district is implementing is going to better meet the needs of students by fairly assessing them. It’s a better measure of what kids know.”

“Standards-based grading has a lot of merit,” agreed Gary Gullickson, the director of admissions at UNC, of Re-1 high schools’ upcoming system. “I can see why they’re doing it.”

The district’s decision to switch over to standards-based grading stems from what Re-1 school board president Susan Hakanson said is “criticism at the college level that public schools are leaving students unprepared for college.”

She said school districts are hearing college administrators say that they’re being forced to go back and teach students basic concepts they need in order to be successful at the college level.

That’s what prompted Re-1 administrators to switch to an exacting way of measuring proficiency ” that is, what a student actually knows and understands.

Using the new system, subject areas will be broken into a specific set of skills. As students learn and understand material, they will receive proficiency scores until all the skills in a subject have been mastered.

Those numbers will be translated to letter grades when they’re recorded on report cards as follows:

A = 4: Advanced proficiency

B = 3: Consistently proficient

C = 2: Partially proficient

Hakanson said teachers will handle the letter grade D using a new approach (see related story).

And, an F will still be an F ” and will be translated to the number 0 when factoring grade point average. However, Hakanson said using the new system, students will have more opportunities to avoid failing a class.

District staff decided to report grades using traditional letters at the high-school level, since virtually all colleges factor letter grading, which includes a student’s grade point average and class standing, into their admissions decisions.

“From the start, we’ve been talking to teachers, parents and colleges,” said Wells of the district’s years-long shift to standards-based grading. “We decided early on we wouldn’t do anything that would affect our students’ abilities to apply to college.”

MacLennan confirmed that Re-1’s students will be treated as they always have.

“We’ll receive letter grades, GPAs and class standings from the Roaring Fork district, just as we have in the past,” MacLennan said. “They’ll be treated just the same as they always have.”

Wells said standards-based grading can help students show high achievement, above and beyond a simple A.

For example, he said a student who demonstrates “high proficiency,” the equivalent of an A or a 4, can progress beyond required course work, and gain credit for honors studies.

“We’re not holding anyone back,” Wells said. “We have an honors program in place, where a student can contract to work independently and go as high as they want to go.”

He explained that if students demonstrate proficiency well beyond a subject matter, they will receive “A Honors” designations recorded on their transcripts.

“It’s a great incentive to go beyond what they learn in a particular course,” Wells said.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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