By contributing reporter Jennifer Bonniwell
Wellesley High School has decided to end standards-based grading beginning in fall 2023, Principal Jamie Chisum announced on Friday in the email bulletin sent to WHS families.
“Wellesley High School will not be using the standards based grading system moving forward. We will put individual grades on individual assignments, those grades will be averaged into a larger term and final grades. We will use pluses and minuses,” Chisum said in the email bulletin.
Standards-based grading will still be used in foreign language classes, which pioneered the grading system 15 years ago, Chisum said. The grading also will continue in the project-based Evolutions Program, which juniors and seniors may opt in to.
Standards-based grading assesses students based on their mastery of a single skill rather than an average of tests at the end of each section of material. For example, a class may have five to eight skills during a single quarter and students are graded on their mastery of each. Some teachers give a full letter grade for each skill mastered; others grade based on a weighted average of scores for each skill.
WHS has faced criticism since rolling out the system during the pandemic-shortened 2020-2021 school year. The new grading system was intended to help teachers assess students in the shortened teaching time and with dramatically changed curriculum.
Complaints from parents came to a head earlier this year, starting with a presentation to the School Committee on Jan. 31 and a March 9 open forum. Chisum said during the open forum that the school would announce changes to the grading system before the end of this year.
Here’s the complete announcement from the May 12, 2023 e-bulletin:
Standards Based Grading is Going Away
I’ve been hearing from a lot of our parents asking about Standards Based Grading for next year so I want to get right to this update on that topic. Wellesley High School will not be using the standards based grading system moving forward. We will put individual grades on individual assignments, those grades will be averaged into a larger term and final grades. We will use pluses and minuses. Evolutions will continue to use SBG and the World Language Department will continue to use the system they’ve been using for at least the last 15 years. We believe the grades should not be causing confusion or angst and we think the best way to remove that is by returning to a grading system families are familiar with and trust. Our courses will still have standards as they always have – they need to answer what are the most important things each course is about. The state continues to have required standards for most departments (and has for decades in some departments). We still believe in the course alignment work we’ve been doing, so we will continue to do that work too. I’m not parsing or selling anything here, just trying to be clear. Will we likely still have challenges with grades in the fall? Yes. We always have, and this adjustment might not be perfect right away, but I truly believe it will be extremely comforting to anyone who has been concerned with the classes that were using standards based grading.
If anything else comes up as the teachers work through the necessary adjustments for this change, I will certainly let you know all about it.
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It’s about time! It was a failure from the start. Parents, students and teachers were unenthusiastic about this learning and grading change. Which is why many of us applied to private school. The Standard based grading and learning could be a good fit for underachieving students who dislike school, but I’d rather we try to reach these students instead of encouraging their reluctance to complete hard work. Thank you to Principal Chisum and to the School Committee members for listening and rejecting a system that lacked critical thinking and problem solving skills. It didn’t work. Our students deserve more than a superficial understanding of subject material. Goodbye Standards Based grading, soon to be found on the smoldering ash heap of unworkable edu-babble.
Teacher Mom says
It has been a colossal failure in New Hampshire where it is more widespread as well. Standards Based Education is based off of Outcome Based Education/ Competency Based Education (it’s essentially the same thing). OBE/CBE has its time and place, job training for instance, but narrows the curriculum and is not appropriate for traditional education programs. It has been pushed and tried by technocrats at other times in his history only to find the same result; failure.
Ken O'Connor says
What a disaster and a disappointment for a school to give up on the only way to get grades that are consistent, accurate, learning-focused and meaningful. (CALM)
Disappointed Parent says
Where was the Wellesley School Committee as this outrageous grading experiment was allowed to fester for almost 3 years at Wellesley High School? Who was protecting Wellesley children and looking out for their best interests? There was not even one presentation made on Standards Based Grading to the School Committee until 2 1/2 years into this experiment. Why wasn’t this subjected to a School Committee vote back in 2020/21 when this major grading policy change was pushed forward? The abdication of responsibility and accountability has been astounding. The WHS History Department, in particular, should be held accountable and put under a microscope for the next 2-3 years to ensure they fully cease and desist their insane policies and practices. Their curriculum should also be fully vetted and reviewed. Wellesley children have suffered enough. Incredibly disappointing.
Ken O'Connor says
It isn’t an “outrageous grading experiment.” It is an approach that develops students to be what they need to be to be successful beyond high school – reflective, independent LEARNERS, not the grade grubbers produced by traditional grading.