Some Wisconsin school districts switch to standards-based grading instead of letter grades

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Several Wisconsin school districts are using standards-based grading instead of the typical A-F grading system to evaluate how students learn.

Teachers using the new grading method may use quizzes at the end of class, projects or writing assignments to evaluate how much students understand, Milwaukee Public Radio reported . The evaluations help teachers see what students may need more instruction on.

"In years past, we kind of just hoped for the best, that (students) understood the material, and we just keep moving on," said David Venne, a science teacher at Racine Case High School. "So, (this change) has actually caused me to slow down a little bit in certain areas. Certain things that I normally would have done in a day, take me two or three days now because I realize (the students) aren't getting it."

Venne said he believes the system will help encourage good teaching.

The style allows for more flexible pacing, said Lisa Westman is an educational consultant based across Wisconsin and Illinois.

"Rather than everybody meeting a certain criteria by a date — like, 'spelling test on Friday!' — students have more flexibility in their pace," she said. "So they can master things more quickly and extend their learning, or it may take them longer and their teacher may account for that."

Standards-based grading operates on a progression method instead of a pass or fail system, Westman said.

"This is really a whole new way of thinking about how we communicate student progress," Westman said.

Teachers may keep a record of several pages for each student, using words such as "meets" or "exceeds" to describe whether students have grasped each concept.

Westman acknowledges the method confuses some parents and students who are used to seeing a single letter grade on report cards.

The skills that are monitored depend on the academic standards the schools follow, such as the Next Generation Science Standards or the Common Core State Standards.

Racine Unified, Glendale-River Hills, Milwaukee and Greendale public schools are among the southeastern Wisconsin districts that have switched to standards-based grading.

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