Parents and now some school board members are still voicing concerns about the new grading system that was implemented last year at Lyons Township High School.
The new system doesn’t count homework toward the final grade in a class and also doesn’t count class participation. It allows multiple retakes of tests and is concerned only with whether students eventually master the material in the course. Under the new system late work is not penalized.
“What we’re looking to do with grades is to ensure that a grade doesn’t have anything in it that doesn’t tell you about what a student has learned,” said LTHS Director of Curriculum and Instruction Scott Eggerding. “So, we’ve taken out extra credit and points for behavior, or participation points, or dressing for P.E. or those kinds of things.”
Administrators tweaked the system after the first semester to require students to complete a certain amount of homework to be eligible for retakes of tests. Many students during the first semester became enmeshed in an endless cycle of test retakes.
But some say the system is still not working.
“It has caused problems at LT since its introduction yet it continues some 20 months later,” said parent Elizabeth Slezak at the April 18 school board meeting. “That, to me, is unacceptable.”
Krystal Steiner, a Brookfield resident and the mother of an LTHS sophomore said that since homework is not graded, students often are not motivated to do their homework.
“They’ve moved the homework fight 100 percent on me, because they don’t require it,” Steiner said. “They’re using kids as guinea pigs to see if this science experiment is going to work.”
In two meetings this month, school board members also began raising concerns about the system while saying that they support the goals, which include promoting fairness and equity.
“I’m still hearing of retakes being packed,” said board member Dawn Aubert at a recent school board meeting.
Aubert and others have noted that many teachers seem to not like the new system.
“We still seem to have a large contingent of teachers that are not on board,” Aubert said.
Eggerding acknowledged that some teachers don’t like the new system. In an effort to get more buy-in, more teachers are being added to the grading implementation committee.
According to a survey done by the LTHS administration, approximately 14 percent of surveyed high schools are, like LTHS, not counting so-called formative work, such as homework, in the grading process.
That concerned school board Vice President Alison Kelly.
“I’m having a hard time understanding why we’re on the aggressive side of this,” Kelly said. “I’m just a big fan of homework. … I don’t think the kids are doing the formatives. I’m not comfortable with what I’m hearing and seeing.”
But school board President Kari Dillon said her experience has been different, noting that one of her children has taken only one retake in the last two years.
“I know a lot of students are doing the formatives,” Dillon said.
Ultimately, the LTHS administration would like to change the current numerical-based grading system, which still results in letter grades with pluses and minuses, to a simpler A-F system without plusses and minuses. That system is being piloted this year by some 30 teaching groups.
Originally, the goal was to implement the A-F system schoolwide by next year but the administration now says full implementation is at least four years off as much curricular works need to be done.
“We made a deliberate choice to slow down,” Eggerding said.
But administrators remain committed to the changes they’ve implemented.
“We’re not there with A to F,” said LTHS Superintendent Brian Waterman said. “We know long term we’re going to A to F.”
Waterman also defended the policy of allowing multiple retakes of tests.
“We feel pretty confident that because of these changes we’ve positively impacted students,” Waterman said. “We still do believe in the inherent value of retakes and we want to continue to offer them as a school.”