Social Studies Department Rolls Out New Grading System

There has been some confusion about how the Standards Based Curriculum (SBC), in social studies is more beneficial than the old one. Mr. Tindall, one of the social studies teachers, calls it a “pilot program” for next the three years, prompted by professional development, as “the best practice (in grading)”. He says that there is no completely objective grading system, but that this new system is better than the 100 point scale. This is the case because it is more probable for a student to pass in the new system than in the 100 point scale. In the new system, you can get a 1, 2, 3 (proficient), or 4 (mastery), with a 4 being a 98 and a proficient being an 88, and so on. A 3 or a 4 would be considered passing. But in an 100 point scale, you have to have at least a 60% to pass (although this varies between different classes).


Mr. Tindall also said that using the 100 point scale is like mathematizing things that cannot be described in a mathematical way. For example, in English class, if a teacher takes off half a point if you forgot a comma, is that really the meaning of a comma in the real world? It’s quite arbitrary. Whereas in SBC, teachers and colleges know whether you have mastered it, are proficient, or didn’t pass. This is how one would describe their knowledge about the subject in the real world.


Another major part of SBC is that students are not taught to attain mastery, but to attain proficiency. Some people think this best reflects the types of grades expected to be attained in large tests later in life; you only need a 60% on the medical exam to become a doctor. But other people (especially students) are concerned that proficient does not reflect well on their transcript, because it isn’t an A. Also, some students don’t like that you can only get four grades, and nothing in between. This is a major part of the controversy of this new system. Is it the teacher’s job to teach students to master the subject, or just be proficient in it?


Also, there is no averaging in the new grading system; instead, the mode grade is taken. This could dismiss a low grade someone could have obtained if their mind was a bit foggy that day. Also, 80% of the testing in this system is formative assessments, which are small quizzes that are only 20% of your grade. Mr. Tindall says that “you shouldn’t be held accountable for your mistakes early on in learning”. The new system helps students make mistakes on the small quizzes, so they are all straightened out by the time they take the summative assessment (the “big” unit test).


Mr. Tindall said that he personally likes the system a lot, even though it is more work for him as a teacher. He has to find all the requirements set by many associations (both national and regional), and find videos, activities, and worksheets that would teach the students the requirements. He thinks that having these set requirements is helpful to students, so they can know what is expected of them. If he could change something about the system, he would make it so there are bar graphs in the report cards, showing where students scored on the 4 point scale, in each unit. Mr. Tindall thinks this would be an improvement because it wouldn’t be averaging completely different topics together into one vague number.


It is impossible to make grading completely objective, but actions are being made to make the grading system as fair as possible. In the SBC system, you can get 4 grades, the highest being mastery. Some people don’t like that you can’t get a grade that’s somewhere in between the four possible grades, but others think that in real life people won’t judge your skills from 0 to 100. In conclusion, SBC is on a whole a valid system, except for the fact that it’s being translated to the 100 point scale in the portal, which leads to there only being four possible grades you can receive. Either the system needs to be entirely SBC, or entirely the hundred point scale, not something in between.

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