OCSD school board - standards based grading

Angie Holland/The Herald

Curriculum Director Steph Wilson and OHS math teachers Michael Comfort and Beverly Jenkinson spoke before the Oskaloosa Community School District Board of Directors about standards-based grading. The board did not approve a measure to to to standards-based grading.

OSKALOOSA — After presentations, discussions and deliberations, the Oskaloosa Community School District (OCSD) Board of Directors in a 4-3 vote did not approve revisions to high school mathematics grading.

At a previous school board meeting, OCSD Curriculum Director Steph Wilson and high school math teachers Beverly Jenkinson, Bret Foster, Cory Sheely and Michael Comfort gave a presentation on standards-based grading.

Standards-based grading, which the math teachers have been doing to an extent already, Wilson said, makes it clearer for students and teachers to see whether the student truly understands the topic or needs help.

Board members expressed concern whether the standards-based grading would affect students' higher education opportunities, especially concerning how important grade point averages and scholarships are to college and university admissions, as well as honor rolls.

Wilson said students will still be receiving a letter grade at the end of the course along with the numeric grade (1–4, with 4 representing mastery of the topic).

"The student would leave Oskaloosa with a letter grade for math," Wilson said, "they would have a GPA."

Grades equal scholarship dollars, board member Erik Edgren said.

Oskaloosa High School Principal Stacy Bandy said that's the way it was when he and the board members were students.

"They weighed money by ACT score," he said. "What I'm saying here is this: It's changed already. And the hard part is each one of us was raised on the old style. So what do we know? We know what we went through. We don't know what's happening on the other side. You're going to say 'well, I want my kid to be able to get that money.' But it's not weighed the same as it was when we were there. It's way different already."

Board members Carl Drost and Sharma Parlett expressed a desire to see what the grading committee shares.

"I am still a bit concerned that we're just jumping out ahead of what that grading committee says," Parlett said. "On the other hand, I am also a firm believer if you don't try something, nothing will happen."

Parlett said she liked the idea of measuring the learning, not just how many points a student can accumulate.

"And hopefully, students will become more responsible for their own learning," she said.

Superintendent Russ Reiter said ultimately, it's all about measuring learning and what is the best way to measure learning.

"I'm an old-timer. I graduated back in some odd year and when I graduated, I was measured on 90, 80, 70 and quizzes and worksheets and tests and this is how I earned my grade," he said. "It didn't really determine how much I learned; it was all about how do you get the grade and how many points can you acquire and how do you acquire those points."

Standards-based grading is truly about measuring learning, Reiter said, and it's different from the traditional way.

"It truly is different and yet I believe it's a better way of measuring learning," he said, "but how to convince an entire community or just a committee or even the teaching staff or board is difficult."

It's about best practice, board member Kraig Van Hulzen said.

"Best practice means it gives you the most effective way to raise your student's scores and the quickest way. If we're really looking at achieving scores, improving our student's scores then if we don't do it we are not moving forward, we're staying in the same spot," he said. "There's all different studies of different ways of effectiveness and this is one of the top ones. You can dispute it or nor not, but it is research-based."