Michael St. Pierre

Sg. Pierre

The West Salem School District announced plans to change how students are graded during a board meeting Monday night.

It’s time for the district to focus grades on learning, rather than incorporating behavior scores, Curriculum Director Michael St. Pierre said.

“We’re shifting a culture from a focus on grading to a focus on learning,” he said.

Superintendent Troy Gunderson said the problem is that students’ behavior has been weaved into how they’re graded. Students are punished with lower grades if they don’t complete their work regardless of how they do on tests or quizzes.

St. Pierre said the school’s system grades on academic performance and behavior.

“We’ve identified through service with our staff, grading and assessment as a key area for making substantial changes,” St. Pierre said. “We’re rethinking our grading practices in school. We’re going to get away from averages.”

He said it might sound simple, but it’s not. It’s important that grades remain meaningful, and that means educators need to spend more time defining the learning outcomes in their lessons.

St. Pierre added the changes to the district’s grading standards won’t change over night.

Instead, the school will begin phasing in the new standards based grading practices over the next four years.

Board member Ken Schlimgen expressed concern that students would no longer receive grades for their behavior.

He said he’d rather hire a “B” student who he knew would show up and do the work than a brilliant student who wasn’t punctual or reliable.

Gunderson said one way this may be handled is to add a page to student’s report card that goes into detail regarding behavior.

St. Pierre hasn’t yet determined what that would look like.

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Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at tobias.mann@lee.net or at 608-791-8216.

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