Teachers work towards equitable grading


Grace Beecher

Newton North’s Grading Committee, founded last spring, aims to make grading more equitable at North, by reflecting on grading practices in order to reflect what students’ are learning. 

Many students don’t see grades as an accurate measure of how well they understand the material, and teachers feel that students focus too much on the grade and not enough on the learning.

“I think grades measure how good you are at getting grades. I think grades measure how good you are at school, not how good you are at actually doing stuff,” said junior Max Zuckernik.

“Sometimes the focus is on getting the points but not on actually understanding the concept,” said Math teacher Kanchan Kant. “My grading is going to focus more and more on mastering the content and less on, ‘I just got the point.’”

Freshman Ma’ayan Rosenbaum said, “it’s hard to show everything that you know in just a singular assignment and there are probably better ways of measuring intelligence and subject mastery.”

The Grading Committee is focusing its work this year around brainstorming ways to improve the grading system. 

“The traditional grading system has racist roots because it is directly descended from systems that were designed to produce the ‘correct’ kind of citizens, as defined by those in power,” said science teacher and co-facilitator of the committee on grading reform Heather Hotchkiss. “We see echoes of this in our very specific definitions of what success looks like and how it needs to be enacted to get credit for it.”

 The committee began last spring and is facilitated by Hotchkiss and English teacher Derek Knapp. As part of the shift towards more equitable grading practices, teams of teachers in every department will test a variety of grading practices. 

Hotchkiss said, “as a school we’re trying to figure out what it would look like to improve grading holistically, for the areas where we know that there are inequitable outcomes that could be alleviated with grading practice changes.”

These grading practices range from not grading homework, to utilizing rubrics in classes like math where rubrics aren’t a primary grading tool. 

Research teams in each department are extending the committee’s work by trying out new grading practices. “In the English department, we have a team that is looking at revision and making revision more of a common practice within the classroom setting,” said English teacher Maureen Kavanaugh. 

Principal Henry Turner said, “It’s exciting work because I think teachers are really interested in reflecting on what is in the best interest of their students,” said Turner.