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MSD considers grading change

9760078 - close-up photograph of a perfect grade on a scantron test.
District may bring back ‘D’ grade to high schools

Everybody’s least favorite passing grade may soon be returning to a report card near you.

More than 10 years after its unceremonious exile from Medford high schools, the “D” grade will most likely be released from its cage after a grading committee decided that change and a few others would help align middle and high school grading systems.

The change, recommended to the Medford School Board on behalf of the committee by Jeanne Grazioli, executive director of teaching and learning, during the June 3 work session, has yet to become policy. But strong support for it — along with a few other alterations to local grading practices — among teachers and administrators means it will probably be implemented in time for the 2021-22 school year.

“Middle school had a ‘D,’ and high school did not have a ‘D,’” Grazioli said. “So we talked about removing the ‘D’ at the middle school or adding a ‘D’ at the high school. So we landed on adding the ‘D’ at the high school. That’s where most of the teachers landed.”

Grazioli said that about 80% of teachers were surveyed on possible changes to the district’s grading policies, and 77% were in favor of bringing back the “D.” Other moves on the horizon include sticking with the zero-to-100 grading scale that was added during the pandemic, limiting test retakes and letting teachers decide how to weight tests and quizzes.

The grading committee is still working to finalize the updates to what is known as its administrative rules (AR), and Grazioli said she’ll update the board on the committee’s progress again later this summer.

If it’s added to the district’s AR, as expected, the “D” grade’s return will include a caveat: students will still receive class credit. Currently, students must earn at least a “C” in order to earn credit.

“There were a lot of pros” to the change, Grazioli told the school board during the work session. “Teachers felt like … it gave them some flexibility.”

The committee is also leaning toward sticking with the zero-to-100 grading scale at the high schools that was made prior to the 2020-21 school year. Previously, Medford high schools used a 1-4 or 1-5 scale that was difficult for some families to decipher.

“And so there was a lot of confusion and not a lot of clarity around some of the practices,” Grazioli said. “So we got a team together and we took a look at what are the things that people are hoping to examine and improve upon, and then we dove into those things. Really, there’s not a whole lot of change, it’s just tightening up some of what we were doing that’s a little confusing for families and students.”

The test retake policy also falls into that category. It is currently determined by teachers on a case-by-case basis. The district may soon adopt a firm number of acceptable retakes to be enforced in every classroom. The issue led to a brief debate during the board’s work session as members considered how many retakes is too many.

“It still doesn’t seem to me that it matches what life is about,” school board member Jim Horner said. “You go do something and either get it right or you don’t, and I feel like we’re saying to the kids, ‘Well, you get an idea what the test is about then take it again.’”

Superintendent Bret Champion disagreed.

“I would push back on that, though, Jim,” Champion said. “Because in reality I do a lot of things and I mess them up, and I get to do them again until I get it right. Now, the fact that 90% (of teachers) agree is one of the things that I find most powerful in this. I totally hear you about the gaming of the system and how that works. What life isn’t is a constant series of redo’s until you finally get it. That’s where we were.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.