Rochester schools to end failed experimental grading system

During the pandemic Rochester Public School administrators implemented a whacky new grading system called “Grading for Learning.” No more grades based on traditional testing, homework or quizzes, no deadlines for papers, lots of do-overs, no grading on behavior or class participation. You get the picture.

But as American Experiment pointed out last year, students quickly learned to take advantage of the anything goes academic fad. Here’s an excerpt:

The district’s website puts it this way:

Students can show mastery in many ways. Grades will be based on summative assessments of skills. These assessments could take the form of a discussion, a writing assignment, a performance and more. Grades will not only be based on traditional tests.

But almost two years into the experiment, the feel-good gimmick known as Grading for Learning has been dubbed Grading for Apathy by some disillusioned teachers, according to a blunt Post Bulletin account.

Take test-taking. Failing a test is not the black mark it once was. Today’s RPS students, if they fail a test, get multiple bites at the apple until they pass.

Today, homework is no longer called “homework” but “practice.” But whatever the name, it no longer can count toward a student’s grade. Nor can tardiness, behavior or class participation. Students can’t fail. Instead they get “no credit.”

That was then and it’s only gotten worse. Now in the third year of Grading for Learning, district officials have evidently learned enough to give the system a grade of its own — F — if that’s even a thing anymore. The Post Bulletin says the district plans to pull the plug on the alternative grading scheme before even settling on a replacement.

The entire philosophy of how schools grade their students is about to change for the second time in just a handful of years.

On Tuesday, the Rochester School Board discussed potential changes to the concept known as Grading for Learning. Although it’s only been implemented for the last few years, it became a controversial system that prompted the district to reevaluate its value.

“The working group said ‘We need to change,'” Superintendent Kent Pekel said. “They didn’t come back and say ‘The status quo is good.’

Yet it’s not as if Grading for Learning came out of the blue in Rochester schools. The district put years of thought into a system that any parent could have told them would never work.

Grading for Learning originated from the sense that existing grading practices had become too varied and subjective throughout the district.

…Once implemented, those ‘big ideas” carried some big changes. Although many saw the core value of the plan, its actual rollout created a mixed bag of opinions. Even the students acknowledged there might need to be some changes.

“I appreciate the students acknowledge they need a reinforcer,” School Board member Jess Garcia said. “Like, ‘Why would I do homework if you’re not going to give me some sort of credit?'”

Quite a breakthrough, assigning homework for credit. It may not be a “big idea,” but no one’s come up with a better way to motivate and hold students accountable. Next thing you know Rochester schools will start including test scores and class participation in grading. But it could take awhile.

“There is a clear shift,” said Jill Dunn, one of the co-chairs for the working group.
It’s uncertain exactly when the new system will be approved and implemented.