Tuesday, Oct 03rd

SHS Pilots New Grading System

shsOnce again, Scarsdale High School proves to be on the forefront of innovative and holistic learning. Keeping with their commitment to develop graduates that are critical thinkers, skillful practitioners, lifelong learners, compassionate leaders, and non-sibi community members, this year SHS will implement a rolling gradebook pilot program. While the minor change in how grades are reported won’t affect a student’s GPA or academic standing, according to Principal Bonamo the rolling gradebook does aim to “minimize the impact of a single assessment score on a student’s overall grade and their self-perception of their performance in a given class.”

In his Welcome Letter, Bonamo also explained, “Over the past several years, the work of our Assessment Committee has focused on progressive grading practices, and we believe this cumulative grading policy will promote a growth mindset for our students. Unlike the former quarterly system, in a rolling gradebook percentages will no longer be assigned to each marking period, and students' grades will be reflective of what they have achieved through any given moment during the school year. Therefore, each report card grade will reflect student performance from the beginning of the year until the end of that quarter. This should have the effect of minimizing the impact of a single assessment score on a student's overall grade and their self-perception of their performance in a given class. The Assessment Committee will determine metrics of effectiveness to help us decide whether we will keep the rolling gradebook as a permanent academic policy. Students will learn specifics for each of their courses in the early days of the school year, and parents can expect to learn more about the pilot at our grade-level principal meetings in early October.”

We reached out to Principal Bonamo to learn more about the pilot program and he graciously answered the following questions:

What benefits does Scarsdale hope to see with the rolling gradebook pilot program?

We believe the shift to a rolling or cumulative grading system will have the following impacts:

-Promotes a growth mindset and helps students understand setbacks within the larger context of the course
-Grades will illustrate long-term progress throughout the year, not just short-term achievement in each quarter
-Provides a more accurate reflection of the student grade at any given point in time
-Reduces the clustering of tests or large projects at the end of each quarter
-Ensures that assessments are weighted properly in relation to each other and other coursework completed throughout the year.
-Allows teachers to plan units to end naturally and not get rushed due to quarter breaks.
-Encourages teachers to plan for the year as a whole instead of by quarter.

Is there research to support the efficacy of a rolling gradebook? Are there other schools who have employed this method that you know of?

The Assessment Committee has done a great deal of research about the rolling gradebook, and we have been guided in our work by Dr. Thomas Guskey, renowned author in the areas of assessment and grading. We completed a faculty-wide read of his book “On Your Mark” and were fortunate enough to have him visit with our Assessment Committee and High School Cabinet this past spring, and a number of our faculty meetings were devoted to the topic. We are aware of some independent schools who have made the switch to a rolling gradebook as part of their larger work on equitable assessment policies.

Can you provide a sample report card or an image to help parents/students more easily understand the new program?

One of the goals of the Assessment Committee this year is to further examine and update our grade reporting structures, which may include an updated report card. I have used this graphic in our discussions with our faculty on High School Compact to illustrate how a rolling gradebook works. The simplest way to think about a rolling gradebook is to view the entire length of the course as one long marking period, and the report card as a progress reporting tool which represents a student’s current performance to date, not only within a fixed time period.

Will this affect a student's GPA?

Two of our science teachers completed an Option A project to analyze the impact of the rolling gradebook on student grades, and found no statistically significant difference between grades calculated through a traditional marking period system and a rolling gradebook.

How will this affect seniors at SHS while applying to college?

It should not affect students in the college application process.

If SHS decides to not keep the program and reverts back to the old grading system, will it affect the grades/gpa of students who took part in the program?

Since we are not abandoning our letter grading system we do not foresee any impact on student transcripts if we were to shift back to the traditional quarterly grading system.

While the pilot program doesn't actually seem to be a huge change, it does seem to offer profoundly positive benefits for students?

We share your sentiment - the change should not have much of an impact on student grades, and we hope it will provide students with a more positive experience and perhaps reduce anxiety around grades. The rolling gradebook also aligns with our Profile of a Graduate, specifically the outcomes in the “Lifelong Learner” category.

The pilot program and the points above, were also highlighted by Dr. McIntosh, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, at the BOE meeting on Monday August 28th. At the meeting, BOE member Amber Yusef asked if the Assessment Committee has a rubric to measure the effects of the pilot program and if the BOE can be kept regularly informed and updated on the findings. Dr. McIntosh explained that the pilot program will be continually assessed and all information will be consistently discussed with the BOE.

Another BOE member, Bob Klein, asked if the district plans to extend the rolling gradebook program to the middle school. Former SMS principal and new Assistant Superintendent, Meghan Troy explained that while the program is first being piloted in the high school, there is a natural connection to the goals SMS has for its students. For instance, Troy explained that SMS encourages students to take more risks and a rolling gradebook would allow students to more readily do that without fearing the consequences of one bad grade.

In the Public Comment portion of the meeting, PTC President Leah Dembitzer asked if report cards at SHS will now include more descriptive terms each quarter like the report cards do in elementary school. She also wondered if there will be metrics in place to measure a student’s mental health and anxiety levels in response to the implementation of the pilot program. Dr. McIntosh wasn’t positive what those metrics are but assured those at the meeting that there will be measurements in place.

We also reached out to a few current SHS students to gauge their reactions to the new rolling gradebook program. One rising sophomore said, “I think it's good to just be able to focus on the final grade and not be distracted or preoccupied with having to keep quarterly grades up. I think it will make tests easier to study for because each one has less relevance to the final grade so there is less pressure.”

Another rising sophomore had this to say, “I think it’ll be helpful to not stress on doing badly in one quarter.” While a rising junior added, “I think it is interesting and different and could improve grading throughout the year…we’ll see.”

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