Stop Cedar Rapids School District from changing the grading system in our high schools

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Standards-Based Grading (SBG for short ) is a newer trend in education based on research from Dr. Marzano and his for-profit business, the Marzano Research Laboratory. With SBG, a 1-4 scale replaces the traditional 0-100 scale. SBG removes the traditional grading system of averaging all of a grading periods work such as daily classroom assignments, projects, homework -- instead students are assessed on their progress over one or two tests given during the grading period. The goal is that students take a more active role in determining new learnings by charting their progress and showing only what they have learned in class, and not charting success based on other factors such as previous knowledge or parental guidance on homework.

SBG is seen as a fix for school boards as they try to help their schools achieve standards for state testing. Some principals have jumped on the SBG bandwagon because it has reduced the amount of parents who complain to teachers regarding grades, especially at the elementary level. There are school districts nation-wide campaigning to parents for this new way of thinking about grades – Cedar Rapids is now one such school district. 

In SBG, the student receives:

1 = below standard; shows little or no understanding.

2 = approaching standard; shows some understanding, with major (or many minor) errors.

3 = meets standard; demonstrates mastery of a skill/topic, perhaps with minor errors.

4 = exceeds standard; demonstrates complete mastery and conceptual understanding with no nontrivial errors. 


 SBG is a huge change for any school and school administrators, but administrators are ignoring the negative impact SBG has on the students and teachers. Here are the negative impacts or concerns parents should consider – some already witnessed in elementary school:

·         Top performers are not rewarded -- SBG makes students “average”.

·         SBG does not motivate a broad portion of the students in the middle ranks to perform to the best of their ability.

·         Teachers spend more time analyzing and “facilitating” rather than teaching. Because SBG does not average homework or daily grades, study habits are disappearing in elementary school. Some of your kids are already on SBG in elementary. Are you satisfied it is giving you the feedback you need? Are your kids challenged? Do they have homework? Can you imagine this being done in high school?

·         Not all students test well and therefore using daily work and homework grades is a better assessment of a student’s true knowledge. Students with test anxiety or dyslexia generally need those daily assignments and homework to help them show progress.

·         When students transfer out of the district how does the 1-4 scale convert?

·         SBG when used at the high school level will hurt college admissions. There is no mathematical way to convert a 1 to 4 scale into a 0 to 100 scale and accurately capture whether or not our students have mastered that subject. Colleges do not widely embrace SBG which will adversely affect our students when high school schools use SBG. If you were in college admissions at a prestigious college, and you were comparing a traditionally graded 4.2 student against a student who was from an SBG school, who would you choose (all other things being equal)?

·         What is the cost to Cedar Rapids School district – if it is funded by federal grants, can those grants be used for other initiatives? How many current or past district employees work for Marzano Laboratory or have taken trips to Marzano conferences, or have used Marzano initiatives to pad their resumes and build their careers? How much money has our district paid to the Marzano Laboratory for training, software, or other educational needs?

·         After many schools could not meet the passing requirements for their state standardized test required by No Child Left Behind Act, some states simply lowered their standards for passing. Isn’t SBG doing the same thing, but changing the grading system to reflect more students are in the average range of a 2 or 3? With the 1-4 system based on a teacher’s assessment, how can you have consistency from school to school or classroom to classroom?

There are examples of parents in school districts in the United Stated outraged after the SBG system was put into placed, threatened to not reelect school board members, and SBG was pulled. But damage was done to the high school students who had grades permanently impacted by the changes.

The only way to stop this is if Cedar Rapids votes board members out of office, and votes in members who care about our current high school students’ competiveness in both college admissions and in the job market. There is nothing wrong with the current grading system, it should not be changed. Teachers are teachers, they are not facilitators, and we trust the many teachers, in the trenches, that say this is not a good thing for our students.   Please sign the petition, and email Dr. Buck, and every one of the school board members and ask them to stop SBG in our high schools, or lose your vote in the next election:Email the Board!


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