Farmington Schools switches to ‘straight’ grading system

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When is an “A” really¬†an “A”?

Farmington Public Schools has implemented new standards designed to bring uniformity to its system of grading secondary students, school officials say.

The move toward “standards-based¬†grading” came as the result of an accreditation review, Superintendent Dr. George Heitsch said. The study noted that the standards for awarding grades varied from teacher to teacher.

Naomi Khalil, Director of Instructional Equity, said within the district, some graded a score of 86 as an “A”, some required at least a 93 or 94.

“We had no consistent, common grading scale or practices,” she said.

The new “straight scale”, common across Michigan and the U.S., is pretty simple: 90-100 is an “A”, 80-89 is a “B”, and so on. It’s just the beginning of a process that continues this year with a district-wide survey and informational forums starting in October for staff and parents, who have already raised concerns.

Five-year transition

In addition to the change, Khalil acknowledged, there was a “technical glitch” in the online student reporting system that resulted in the percentages connected to letter grades being hidden. That has, for the most part, been resolved.

Parents are also concerned that their children will be short-changed by the elimination of the “plus” or “minus” added to letter grades.

“There’s a belief out there that we have somehow taken away weighting,” Khalil said. “An A-minus or an A-plus was always a 4.0. We tracked it back for 15 years.”

Transitioning to the new system is expected to take about five years, Khalil said. With the shift to measuring against standards, teachers will “be able to articulate what the grade means.” Part of the plan includes an alignment of elementary and secondary grade reporting. But the whole process comes down to one thing.

“It’s really about the learning in the classroom,” Khalil said.

Take the District’s Standards-Based Grading Survey.