The grading practices at SLPHS are created using a collaborative process, a central part being the grading design team. English teacher Callie Hefstad, who collaborated with the design team, said she was invited to give the design team her background knowledge on grading policies to aid their development of new practices.
“(The new practices) stem from the grading design team,” Hefstad said. “They’ve been looking at research, what best practices for grading are, and what other schools around the region are doing. They pitched their idea to add-in (new grading practices), and they asked me to be a part of it because I’ve done different grading practices at other schools -- specifically standards-based grading.”
One primary concern of previous grading practices is the probability of a student failing a class. The odds of a student failing a class is 60%, or 6/10. Historically, it has been easier for a student to fail than for them to pass. If a student performs poorly on a test or misses assignments, the zeros in their grade book begin to pile up, and it’s hard to raise their grade because you have to make up 60% of your grade from 0% to have a chance of passing. Understanding the impact this has had on students and wanting to encourage students not to stop trying after failing a test or missing an assignment, SLPHS implemented a 50% grading floor. This promotes best practice grading because it doesn’t automatically give students an “easy A” or pass them. Still, it doesn’t punish them as severely for making a mistake or not understanding a topic. It’s much easier to make up 10% than 60%, which encourages learners to keep striving for improvements.
Hefstad said the grading design team was also concerned about the probability of a student failing. From the teacher's perspective, she said they wanted to offer more ways for a student to succeed rather than fail.
“I’ve also implemented the 50% grading floor since I’ve been here and been an outlier in that way,” Hefstad said. “I started to (work) with them, and we decided the 50% floor idea is what we want to move towards. When you look mathematically at our grading practices and (see) the fact that we have more ways for students to fail rather than succeed, it just doesn’t make sense. What the grading floor does is offer students more opportunity to succeed in many ways.”