In the article “How Grading Reform Changed Our School,” assistant principal Jeffrey Erickson details how he and the staff of his school, Minnetonka High School, changed their perspectives on grading and what it meant, and how changing the way that teaching staff graded the students’ work changed the whole school. The article details different aspects of grading and how those changes were reflected in student performance.
The article begins with the author’s description of his daughter learning to swim and how her progress in swim class changed how he thought about grading student performance. Erickson describes how in the early 2000s, parents of students at Minnetonka High School (MHS) were calling for more transparency and consistency, and teachers had determined that very many factors influenced grades, several of which had nothing to do with student performance. One of the issues identified is grade inflation, and another is grade deflation. Erickson describes how elements like extra credit inflate grades and how taking points off for classroom infractions deflate grades, neither of which reflects the students’ knowledge of the content.
Erickson goes on to describe how the staff developed common practices which addressed these issues – that is, not using grades to reward or punish students and avoiding grade inflation and deflation. The staff determined that better practices and policies for dealing with behavioral issues and attendance problems dealt with those issues more effectively than using grades, reserving grading for its purpose: determine students’ academic progress. Erickson also describes how teachers used retakes and redoes – second chances for learning – to demonstrate that that had worked for their grades. Professional development was considered to be a crucial component of the success of this change in grading, and the staff were open with parents about the change and listened to feedback. Erickson ends the article with descriptions of the cultural change in the school and all the positive benefits of the reform.