Fairfield high schools bring back homework grades
FAIRFIELD — When Ludlowe and Warde students get their course syllabi this week, they’ll see a new grading breakdown.
After conducting an analysis of last year’s grading initiatives, the Board of Education decided in June that grades will be determined 90 percent by summative assessments and 10 percent by formative assessments, homework and work habits.
This is a change from last year’s grading initiative, which calculated grades by 100 percent summative assessments, with formative assessments and homework not counting at all towards final grades.
In a presentation to the Board of Education Tuesday, Ludlowe Principal Greg Hatzis said the reinstatement of some homework grading was recommended due to a drop in both GPAs and homework completion observed last year.
Homework, Hatzis said, should be understood as meaningful practice that will help students perform better on summative assessments. In looking at last year’s data, Hatzis said, they observed a high correlation between homework completion and better grades.
However, many students last year failed to grasp this, and apparently did not complete their homework because it was no longer graded. This, Hatzis said, can be seen as the main contributor towards lowered GPAs.
While the administration will continue to emphasize to students the intrinsic value of homework as practice, bringing back a small percentage of homework grades should help put some students back on the right track.
The 2018-2019 school year also saw the implementation of two more grading initiatives: cumulative grading and the elimination of midterms. These will both remain the same this year.
Cumulative grading, which counts each new assessment as it comes throughout the year and eliminates quarterly grades, was effective in showing students where they stood at all times. Hatzis said they’ll work this year to ensure that assessments are weighted and spaced evenly and students and parents understand the meaning of these snapshot grades.
Hatzis also noted that the high schools are implementing a two-week deadline for teachers to post assignment grades online. This should smooth the cumulative grading process by ensuring that students are continually updated on their grade information throughout the year.
The elimination of midterms received mixed reviews this year, with some students feeling that it reduced January stress, while others said they were still given large-scale assessments in the middle of the year.
Final assessments grades, which now count towards 20 percent of overall grades, did not make a significant impact on final grades. The district will continue to hone the new exam schedule this year.
Some Board of Education members asked how the district will respond to concerned students whose GPAs dropped due to these changes, particularly rising seniors getting ready to apply to college.
Hatzis said they’ll work with college counselors to ensure that if specific situations arise with student transcripts, counselors include tailored explanations of the situation in their letters to colleges.
“All those stressors are very real,” Hatzis said of the difficult college process. “If there’s a story to be told, that’s a conversation with the counselor that can be addressed in the counselor’s letter.”
Other Board members inquired about rumors that these changes had been implemented to counter grade inflation at the high schools.
Hatzis answered unequivocally that these initiatives were not targeted towards lowering grades. The purpose, he said, was to create a system that is better for students’ social-emotional health and sets them up for long-term success.
Superintendent Mike Cummings noted that the district plans to establish a grading committee in the next month that will focus on these initiatives and monitor their success.