What are other SVVSD schools’ grading policies?

With the 80/20 policy at Mead High School, the question begs to be asked: what grading policies are other schools in the district using?


Aiden Owen

District officials spend time developing their grading policies.

Kassidy Trembath, Editor in Chief

The following is the 5th segment in a series meant to explore the 80/20 grading policy at Mead High School. Stay tuned for more installments.
If you have not yet read the first segment describing why MHS has the 80/20 policy, according to Principal Ayers, you can read that here.
If you have not yet read the second segment describing student reactions to the MHS policy, you can access that here.
If you have not yet read about teacher responses to the grading policy, please read it here.
Lastly, if you have not yet read about professors reactions to the grading policy, please read it here.

Since the school opened 9 years ago, there had been no formal grading policy—that is, until 2015 when the 80/20 policy was put in place.

The policy is as follows: Learning activities are 20 percent of a student’s final grade (formative assessments), while assessments (summative assessments) are mostly exams, tests, and quizzes, which result in 80 percent of the student’s grade. Ayers has described formative assessment as the following: “[it] should inform and move students from introduction to proficiencies so that [students] are becoming proficient on assessments.”

With the 80/20 policy at Mead High School, the question begs to be asked: what are other schools doing?

School officials from around the district have discussed their schools’ grading systems.

“There is a policy, but it does not designate the percentage of assessment vs. classwork/homework,” says Stacy Judson, Assistant to SVVSD Executive Director of Curriculum Kahle Charles. He explained that a student’s work will reflect their grades, meaning that a student should be able to apply their knowledge and be able to do well on tests/projects/quizzes. He also referenced a motto his office often refers to: “Can they do it? Can they apply it?” Authentic based learning, he said, is a great way to test a students ability to apply their knowledge.

Some administrators in our district had believed that St.Vrain had a district-wide grading policy, while others said there wasn’t. It wasn’t very clear to them what a grading system entailed. Charles said, I would say in reality that there may be some variances in the district.” As a result, it appears St. Vrain does not have a uniform, enforced grading policy.

Frederick, Niwot, and Silver Creek all follow a 70/30 grading policy. Neither Erie nor Lyons have an enforced policy, although Randy McKie, the Assistant Principal at Lyons, explains that most of the high school teachers there do follow a 70/30 grading system.

Some schools declined to comment further on their enforcement of 70/30 at the risk of “creating conflict within the district.” One such source did admit, however, that they believed the district mandates 70/30. Despite repeated attempts, some schools never responded to interviews. Though the majority of schools did not respond immediately to email, four did respond to phone calls. Three did not respond to phone calls or emails.

Assistant Principal Eric Ottem has been working at Silver Creek HS for 10 years, and states that their policy has been in place for at least seven. He also states that “teachers can make something worth nothing, and nothing worth a lot,” meaning that individual teachers can “manipulate the system.” With this being said, the “district agreement with teachers is that teachers have ultimate decision on what grades are given.”

“There are pros and cons for each grading philosophy and I don’t know that I have an opinion either way. It seems like allowing variation by teacher and subject makes a lot of sense but I can see the positives of consistency across the school,” says Julie Pohlman, a counselor from Erie High School. She recognizes that within each grading system, there are going to be some things that do work and some that don’t.

Doug Jackson, Assistant Principal from Frederick, states that “Around three years ago we researched the topic fairly extensively, and [he] became a strong advocate.”

He went on further to add, “It is our stance that the bulk of a student’s grade should be based on his or her measurable learning, and that to allow otherwise risks what some researchers have called ‘grade pollution.’ I find that students are comfortable as long as they feel they are being treated fairly, and know the policies in advance (as well as the rationale behind those policies).”

Simply put, he believes in a more firm policy. He also explains that a stricter policy eliminates gray areas that can frustrate students, as well as teachers.

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