D91 innovates on grading

Opinion: Editorials

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We've all had letter grades drilled into us for so long it seems like a sacrosanct and unquestionable model. There are A students and C students. Or maybe you're an A in the realms of history and English but can hardly crack a C in math and science.

When you think about it, letter grades are a fairly imprecise and subjective system of assessment for a very wide range of students. The same way that standardized tests are a wholly imperfect snapshot of a group of kids at one moment in time, what actually does it tell if a student is a High C or a Low B in math?

In District 91, Forest Park's public schools, there has been active innovation over several years now in how students are assessed throughout the school year. These tests return highly individualized results, which tell teachers, parents and students precisely what headway a student is making in learning specific subjects and skills. That has resulted in much more responsive and individualized learning opportunities.

D91, beginning with the 2020-21school year, will begin a steady remaking of how that learning translates into assessments. It is an approach rapidly gaining steam in education and is called Standards Based Grading. Initially, letter grades will disappear for math and ELA (English and Language Arts) and be replaced by something far more descriptive of a student's current levels. This will be useful and actionable information for every student and family.

We hear the boo birds. "A's and B's were plenty good for me and my kids." Or "Isn't this more of the dumbing down of public schools?"

We don't think so.

Standards Based Grading is another innovative way that modern education focuses on the individual needs and learning styles of each child. It is a bold and not surprising step by our public schools in Forest Park.

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