The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

New Board Policy Aims for Alignment

On Monday, April 23, the school board passed the Grades/Evaluation of Student Achievement Policy by an unanimous 5-0 vote.

The policy is based on recommendations recieved from the Assessment Task Force, a committee of 25 people including parents, students, teachers and administrators from both LAHS and Mountain View High School (MVHS). The Assessment Task Force has been working together since March 2011 to come to a consensus on a set of recommendations that would inform a new policy to help align grades.

The policy states that “grading practices should support and inspire student learning and should be aimed at reducing failure and promoting improvement of academic achievement for all students.”

When asked her thoughts, English teacher Keren Robertson said, “I think it takes us in a direction that we have already started heading, so it’s the next logical step, and I think it will be good for us to help clear district wide policies on this in order to create more consistency across the district.”

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The district plans to accomplish this by making sure, according to the policy, that grades are “fair, timely and accurate.” Grades are aligned by making sure that every student has an equal chance of receiving the same grade for the same amount of work no matter what teacher they have, that grades are evaluated in a timely and efficient manner, and that they are representative of a student’s achievement in a particular course. Although the policy praises group work as a strategic element to enhancing students’ learning experiences, students will recieve individual grdes instead of one grade for the the entire group.

The policy requires alignment of grading practices within the same course on a school wide level. For example, MEHAP classes at LAHS would need to be aligned with one another. Some of the specific aspects that will be focused on are the weight of assignments factored into the grade, homework policies, late-work guidelines and missing assignment rules.

“I believe that the policy will result in better aligned courses and grades that are fair to all students,” District Superintendent Dr. Barry Groves said.

The new policy is expected to be implemented starting in the fall of the 2012-2013 school year and the district aims for implementation to be complete by the end of the academic year. The district hopes that the new policy will allow them to achieve one of the district’s four main goals of “[aligning] district grading practices.”

“Students will feel better about our system as it will be more fair, and teachers will be working together on course teams to create stronger courses,” Groves said.

All teachers are supposed to implement the policy, which includes specific steps that teachers can explore to better align their courses. The district is trying to get teachers to collaborate about courses over the summer.

“No matter whose class you’re in, you have the opportunity to master the same standards,” Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Brigitte Sarraf said. “No matter whose class you’re in, you will be expected to be doing the same amount of work, no matter whose class you’re in, your grade will be determined in the same way.”

District officials also believe that this policy will help students receive grades that are a more accurate representation of their achievement.

“If a student takes a course, the grade will not be determined by who the individual teacher is, but rather by how well he or she has mastered the material,” Groves said. “We hope that the difficulty level will become more similar with this new policy in each course.”

There has been some confusion about the four-point grading system that MVHS has been considering implementing. This is a separate system from what the board policy requires, and isn’t planned to take effect at LAHS. Under the policy, students receive either at 4, 3, 2 or 1, instead of the traditional 100 point based, A-F letter grade system. This idea was introduced because more than half of this 100 point scale correspondes to an F (0-59%) and some teachers believe this is unfair.

Teachers are vital to this process; without them this policy cannot be implemented.

“The reason alignment is a powerful tool is, for example, in survey, when you have ten teachers working together and deciding how are we going to assess students on this, what’s an A, what’s a B, what’s a C, you get the wisdom of 10 educators experiences working together and you’re more likely to get an averagely good policy,” Robertson said.

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