Austin school in national spotlight for new grading system

Ellis Middle School in Austin has been featured in the national news for its new grading system, which incorporates both knowledge and life skills to help determine how much students really know about the course material.

The New York Times ran a story last week, and principal Katie Berglund was on Tuesday’s “Fox and Friends” network morning show.

The Austin paper notes that the school’s system, called Grading for Learning, splits a student’s class grade into two parts: a knowledge grade and a life skills grade. The knowledge portion makes up 90 percent of the grade, life skills the other 10 percent.

Berglund says in the Times article: “Over time, we began to realize that many teachers had been grading kids for compliance — not for mastering the course material. A portion of our A and B students were not the ones who were gaining the most knowledge but the ones who had learned to do school the best.”

The Times story said teachers at the school looked at four years of data — both state test scores and semester grades — and found that about 10 percent of the students who got A’s and B’s during the year did poorly in end-of-year tests, while another 10 percent did fine on the tests, but got C’s, D’s and even F’s during the year, turning in homework late and never raising their hands.

The new grading system, the school says, helps teachers better determine who the smart students are.

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