Anoka-Hennepin ponders districtwide grading policy

By Olivia Koester

Staff Writer

 

The Anoka-Hennepin School Board gave administrators the green light to pursue a districtwide grading policy at the body’s work session June 16.

Currently, teachers each employ their own grading scales, which means that secondary students have several to keep track of.

So, what does a particular letter grade indicate when they aren’t given out consistently?

Many students don’t know what their grades mean, according to Associate Superintendent for High Schools Jeff McGonigal.

An “F” usually means that students have a grade of less than 59 percent. When students see a failing mark, “they typically think they have not learned anything,” which is not the case, McGonigal said after the work session. Students may have missed some targets, but not all content, he said.

By making letter grade values uniform and explaining what is required to earn each, “we can help them understand learning targets,” he said.

Currently, in some classes, students can get “extra credit” for bringing in boxes of Kleenex and not using their allotted bathroom passes, boosting their grades at the end of the term, Anoka High School Principal Mike Farley said, offering an example that might be extreme, according to McGonigal.

Board Vice Chairperson Marci Anderson sees similar practices employed at the college level, where her daughter received “extra credit” just for showing up to class, which didn’t necessarily help her learning, Anderson said.

Grades should promote learning, administrators agreed.

“I think if we polled our teachers, they would agree,” Blaine High School Principal John Phelps said.

Members of the board were adamant that teachers continue to be consulted as research about a universal grading policy continues, they said.

“Let’s be careful to make sure we’re really respecting the teachers’ point of view,” Board Chairperson Tom Heidemann said.

Teachers working in collaborative teams to explore grading practices have had mixed reactions to the idea of a universal grading policy.

Some think it’s an idea worth pursuing; some aren’t opposed to further research, but have reservations; some are against the idea of a universal grading policy, McGonigal said.

Many veteran teachers have had their grading systems in place for years and understandably may not be keen to tweak something they believe is working, McGonigal said. “There’s going to be work to do here.”

There was no proposal and is no set timeline for one at this point.

With the board’s OK to press forward, administration will dive into research on the topic.

They have already spoken with Austin, Bloomington, Minnetonka and Mounds View school districts, who have districtwide grading polices already in place.

Cynthia Hays, who starts as the district’s chief academic officer in July, and her team will take charge on this, according to McGonigal.

 

Contact Olivia Koester at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

 
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