Impacts of Central High School’s New Grading System – Evidence Based Grading

Central High School has been piloting a new grading system this year. How is it faring?

By Mariah Peterson and Raylee Jones

Teachers are optimistic about the new evidence based grading system that is being piloted in a few classes at Central High School this school year. However, they are struggling to use the new idea properly in their classrooms.

The new evidence based grading system was introduced last year to students and teachers, and has heavily affected both.

There are two major differences between evidence based grading and the system we have known for years:

First off, instead of getting a solid percentage for your work, evidence based grading (EBG) is a form of grading that banks on evidence of demonstrated learning by the student, and is scored on a scale of 1-4. Each number represents a different level of understanding on a certain topic: 1 is developing, 2 is approaching, 3 meets standard, and 4 is exceeding expectations.

Second, in this type of grading system, homework is not used to gather a grade, but rather for the student to practice the skills they have learned.

“I do wish I could get more students to do practice but hopefully eventually students will see why it matters even though it does not count,” said Brynn Birekland, a math teacher at Central High School. Students have the opportunity to practice and develop the skills that they need improvement on, and are graded on their level of learning towards that skill.

“I have seen marked improvement in student achievement, and overall, I feel that students are leaving my class with much more relevant knowledge and skills,” said Amanda Caron, a social studies teacher at Central High School. “I would also say students who have traditionally performed well in school may not be seeing the same type of grades with this system, as it requires more authentic proof of growth, rather than achievement of simple tasks.”

Caron talked about the Marzano Scale. This scale is a scientific behavioral evaluation system. This system creates reliability for the observer as well as simplifying the evaluation process. This system is strikingly similar to the EBG system. It is again, a 1-4 scale. One is beginning, 2 is developing, 3 is applying, and 4 is innovating. In a nutshell, 1 means that you don’t understand it and 4 is that you understand it so well you could teach it to someone else. Caron states this is how she tries to approach grading in her classroom.

While many students are frustrated with the change in the way their work is being graded, many teachers believe that it will benefit the students in the long run. EBG is a new concept to the school and it will take work to improve the system to its most effective form.

In 2022, a group of Central High School teachers got sent to a seminar at a Chicago high school that has the EBG grading system in place where they were thoroughly educated on how the system should ideally work. Those teachers are now using the skills that they learned at that seminar to prepare their co-workers to use the grading system in future school years.

Though the teachers were taught the way that things should be graded in the new system, it has become a problem that some teachers at Central High School, who are piloting EBG, are all grading things differently. This brings up new problems for the students, and drives away from students being able to further understand the system better. The problem with this most likely comes from the lack of training that some teachers are experiencing. While some teachers are more educated about the system and have more training with it, there are also some teachers who lack the necessary knowledge about it, which brings up problems with how they should grade student’s assignments.

“Constant adjustment and fine tuning of curriculum will be ongoing for the next several years,” said Zachary Powers, a social studies teacher at Central High School. “I believe we need to be more clear on how the grading system works as it is a new concept to so many students and teachers.”

The system has been around for years and is present in many schools around the country. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, is one of many schools that has implemented this grading system and has had a positive experience in using it. They believe that it has helped students take ownership of their learning journey, giving them the skills to grow into self-sufficient human beings.

In using this grading system, Stevenson High believes they are allowing students to have superior college preparation. The mindset EBG applies gives students progressing knowledge on how to uphold their own learning and where to anchor their study time which is key to reach success in college and life.

“If we view learning as a progression and value growth, then how we report learning should align with that ideology and foster a growth mindset in our students,” said Michael Talley, the interim assistant superintendent of Rapid City Area Schools, who introduced EBG while principal of Central High School.  “Students need to be reintroduced to goal-setting, personal responsibility, and productive struggle.”

Central High School teachers are undergoing training for the new system, which is planning to be piloted in more classrooms next school year.

Photo: Jessee report card by Virginia State Parks on Flickr