Nutana Collegiate in Saskatoon has made a decision to replace a failing grade on a high school student’s transcript with “incomplete” in an attempt to aid students in their educational endeavors. Prairie South School Division has also implemented new strategies for grading practices. Some of these include:
Do not punish academic dishonesty with reduced grades. Include only achievement. Use other methods of consequences.
Don’t include student behaviors in grades (effort, participation – unless included in the curriculum, attendance, adherence to class rules, etc.). Use only individual achievement evidence; don’t include group scores in grades. Compare each student’s performance to preset student learning outcomes; don’t assign grades based on student’s achievement compared to other students.
Don’t include zeros in grade determination when evidence is missing or as punishment. Zeros do not show evidence of learning. Use alternatives, such as reassessing to determine real achievement or use “I” for incomplete or insufficient evidence.
Don’t reduce marks on work submitted late, provide support for the learner.
There are several other “big ideas” for grading practices and the entire document can be found on the PSSD website under Documents, Curriculum & Instruction, Assessment and Grading Practices.
These are some of the suggestions based on educational research to allow opportunities for all students, students who are academically gifted, students who have learning difficulties, students with low self-esteem, students with health problems, students who come from dysfunctional families (according the Leader Post when discussing the Nutana initiative), students who belong to gangs or who are drug and/or alcohol abusers. One other new initiative of our school division is the encouragement for students to become involved, with his/her parents, in the student-parent-teacher conferences (formerly known as parent teacher interviews). This initiative seems like the one which may have immediate benefits because it is imperative that the students and his/her parents become engaged in learning. Each student from K-8 has identified educational goals on his/her report card and one of the most common suggestions to reach these goals is this: My parents can support me by helping: questioning me for my tests, reminding me to do my homework right away, and just helping.
These are all just a few attempts to try to enable all students to have an opportunity to be successful in the educational system. Positive communication between parents, teachers and students could be the most effective way for all students to gain the opportunity for educational success. Some functional and/or parents may not align their personal beliefs with these attempts, but perhaps there may be some benefits for those who are truly in need of support.