Departments take differing approaches when grading across sections


Amanda Hsu

GRADES & RUBRICS. The History department utilizes similar lesson plans and rubrics across class periods, but the grading can differ. Other subject areas use completely different methods for assessing students, such as standards-based grading in the Science department.

How do teachers ensure that all students in the same section are graded equally?

US science teacher Karissa Baker, who teaches on the Physics 9 team, shared that the science department has been using Standards-Based Grading for eight years. At the beginning of every unit, students are introduced to learning goals or standard content they are expected to meet or retain. Throughout the unit, quizzes or learning checks are used to see how well the student has mastered the skill. The quizzes and tests are graded using three levels: beginning, developing, and secure. Baker said this type of grading has a standard rubric and clear guidelines, making it easy to ensure every student is equally assessed. “Standards-Based Grading allows me to have a sense of where students are in terms of their level of understanding,” Baker said. “I am a strong believer in Standards-Based Grading.”

The English department uses rubrics for unit assessments but not standards-based grading. US English teacher Kristin Collier is on the English 9 team and said that all of her English colleagues have a similar grading style; however, there is no overarching system they have agreed to use. While the English 9 classes cover the same topics and content, Collier stated that “each class probably feels, experientially, a little bit different. [But] in terms of grading, it is more uniform because we want that to be […] equitable across sections.” The grading of end-of-unit assessments is mainly based on standard rubrics across sections but also on the amount of effort the student puts in. Microessays are another way that English teachers assess students in certain areas. Collier believes that the current grading system works well for the department; nevertheless, she shared, “We’re all open as a ninth-grade team to continue to innovate and improve and receive feedback from students and other teachers.”

Andrew Inchiosa, who also teaches English 9, said, “I think that there would be advantages to having even more shared grading approaches,” he states. However, he acknowledged that many challenges would come with having the same grading system since every teacher and student approaches the material differently. Inchiosa said the department discusses this frequently in teams and department meetings, but in the end, agrees that the system depends on the class.

[The grading structure] will never be uniform, but I think it’s pretty effective.”

— Ben Bollinger-Danielson

US History teacher Ben Bollinger-Danielson shared that lesson plans & class content are similar in history sections taught by multiple teachers, like World History 1. However, teaching style differs due to many reasons, such as teacher expertise, student dynamic in the classroom, and other variables. The History department also does not have a standard grading system; however, the current methods are still successful, “[The grading structure] will never be uniform, but I think it’s pretty effective,” Bollinger-Danielson commented.

SPA certainly does not have an overarching set of rules to follow while grading, but teachers concur that grading systems depend on the class and subject. Regardless, teachers agree that their current plan is working for them and their students, and that, by far, is the most important.