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D161 changing grading process for next year

As the school year ends, Flossmoor School District 161 students can say a final goodbye to letter grades. All schools in the district will switch to standards based learning in the 2024-25 school year. 

The transition from traditional cumulative grades aims to provide parents with more information about their children’s academic achievements by emphasizing “mastery” of key learning standards. Amabel Crawford, the district’s director of learning and instruction, presented a status update at the May 6 board of education meeting. 

“We are shifting responses from what a student got on an assignment to what they learned,” Crawford said. “We want to move forward with this process to have better and more insightful conversations with parents about how students are doing. Oftentimes, grades are ambiguous, and it is hard for a parent to tell what is behind an A or a C because depending on the class, the course, and the instructor, there can be a lot of different elements.” 

The district hopes updated report cards will ensure that parents receive specific information on what students need to succeed at their current grade levels. The new system also separates academic achievements from behaviors to offer a more transparent assessment of each student’s progress. The standards-based grading practices are designed to guide teachers and administrators throughout the grading process and during collaborative discussions.

“It’s one of the most impactful things we can do to create excellence,” Superintendent Dana Smith said. “The best way to increase student achievement is for our kids to know exactly what they’re supposed to be learning, where they stand in relation to that target, and then what’s next for their learning.”

The standards based system uses consistent metrics to gauge students’ proficiency against specific standards. It will replace traditional grading, which typically blends achievement, effort, and participation into a single grade. Instead of calculating late work or extra credit when grading, teachers will focus on recent evidence and use professional judgment. 

The updated report cards will feature numerical scores corresponding to students’ proficiency in meeting specific learning standards. The numbered ratings, which range from zero to four, measure mastery of skills and knowledge. The grading system also will provide feedback on learner behaviors aligned with the district’s “Portrait of a Graduate,” including resilience, creative thinking, collaboration, and empathy.

District officials stressed the need to communicate with parents about the new grading system through various channels during the meeting. 

“Changing the way we connect with our parents and share information back and forth so that they can increase their partnership with the schools, classrooms and teachers is really the next iteration of this work,” Smith said.

The district’s plan includes updated resources on the district website, a parent handbook for standards-based grading, and virtual parent meetings scheduled right before school starts in August and throughout the first two quarters of next year.

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