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Proposed grading changes have students concerned

April 17, 2019
MEREDITH — The Inter-Lakes School District is moving towards more competency based grades, which has raised concerns among the student body on how this could impact their achievements and futures.

A number of Inter-Lakes High School students attended Tuesday's Inter-Lakes School Board meeting to express concerns over the proposed new grading system that will be implemented over time.

Superintendent Mary Moriarty presented a rundown of the proposed changes in the grading system. She said next month there will be ongoing sessions for students and parents to discuss these changes.

Moriarty said the new system will more reflect the switch to competency based learning. She said whereas the current system are more arbitrary standards, the new system will be based on specific criteria. The aim will be to get students to "Proficient" and the new system has standards for what that exactly means.

Under the current system students receive letter grades with pluses or minuses. With the new system there will still be letter grades people are already familiar with that will reflect competencies. A would be "proficient with distinction," B would be "beyond proficient," and C would be "proficient." Two new grades will be added to replace D and F. DP is "developing proficiency" and IE is "insufficient evidence" of proficiency. Moriarty said that C under this system would be harder to get than the usual C grade.

"We are asking kids to demonstrate a higher degree of performance than a 70," Moriarty said.

She said in order to get that C students have to show a sufficient amount of evidence that they have reached that level of proficient.

The system would still have grade point averages and an honor role. There will still be no valedictorian or salutatorian, though high school diplomas will have Latin grade honors (cum, magna, summa).

Student board representative Ian McCabe also spoke about the concern, saying the general feeling among the student population is this doesn't meet their needs.

"We feel as if the standards and the expectations are being lowered," McCabe said. "There's no way to differentiate yourself. That's the overall feeling I've been getting so far."

Students expressed concern about what the classic grades will mean under the new system, saying the current system is something that has become ingrained in the 13 years they have been in school. There was concern that students who usually strive for A's could end up getting B's under the new system, which could be demoralizing.

"I'm used to getting A's and thats really unsettling, (it) feels like my work is being diminished," said senior Willow Strother.

A number of students were opposed to getting rid of the number grades and the pluses and minuses in the grades.

"I feel like especially taking away the number grades and the pluses and minuses on the As and Bs feels to me that would invalidate my work," said Maya Weil-Cooley. "I work really hard in school and I want my grades to reflect that."

Emerson Moore said there is concern that the new grades won't reflect what would be required for college or even the real world and won't prepare them well for either.

Another major concern is how the new system could put students who normally do not make high achievements on the honor role or in National Honor Society. A number of students said they work hard to get high grades and make these honors, whereas under a new system students who don't make that high a level of achievement could be part of this and it would diminish the importance of this goal.

Board member Lisa Merrill asked how colleges would look at the new grading system, saying her concern as a parent would be that her child can still get into the best college possible. Moriarty said competency based systems are now a requirement by the Department of Education and how that is implemented looks different from school to school. Each high school has a guidebook describing the school and its grading system. Weil-Cooley expressed concern that the new grading system might make it difficult to get into higher level schools, such as ivy league schools.

"We knew 10 years ago that the hardest part of moving to a competency based (system) is on the assessing side and it's going to take time," said board member Mark Billings.

Billings said maybe it would be better to bring the pluses and minuses back.

Moriarty said they will take this feedback into consideration when looking at the system and they are still trying to figure out the best way to align the new grades with the grade point averages.

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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