After progress reports, some parents may have seen some dramatic changes in their student’s grades.
The Clarke County School District has changed its “incomplete” grading policy to a “missing” policy, which means that some students’ grades might have become lower than the day before. The school district announced the change from the “incomplete” to the “missing” policy in letters to parents that have all been posted on the Clarke County School District’s Facebook page.
On Sept. 27, the incomplete policy was announced for Clarke County middle schools. This policy did not penalize a student for missing work. It made it so that if a student had a missing assignment, then the gradebook would mark it as “incomplete.” The “incomplete” listed in the gradebook did not count as a 0, and the student’s grade would not suffer due to the missing work. The student would then have the opportunity to make up the work with no consequences.
On Oct. 4, the district gave eighth-graders enrolled in high school courses a missing policy. This policy is different than the incomplete policy in that students receive “missing” grades for incomplete work instead of an “incomplete” grade. The “missing grades” logged into the gradebook would count as 0, and the changes would appear in the student’s grade average. Students still would have the opportunity to make up these assignments without consequences.
On Oct. 10, the district informed parents that the missing policy applied to not just the eighth-graders enrolled in high school courses, but to all grades within Clarke County middle schools as well.Why It’s Newsworthy: The Clarke County School District’s grading system for middle school students has adapted due to the pandemic, so both students and parents should understand the change.
The District’s Reasoning
The Clarke County School District explained in a letter their reasoning for the change in the grading system.
“The initial guidance we were given utilized the ‘Incomplete – I’ function to communicate that a student had not submitted an assignment. This did not calculate as part of a student’s final average, and so many students and parents felt their student was performing well when they actually had multiple missing assignments. Moving forward, we will use the ‘Missing – M’ function in campus to communicate incomplete assignments. This allows students and parents to see how the missing assignment will impact their final average,” the letter said.
The letter also said students can turn in missing assignments before the end of the quarter without consequences.
Matt Pruitt is a parent in the Clarke County School District. Pruitt said he believes giving kids zeros can be overly punitive.
“I know there are people that say kids need to understand consequences, and they need to understand the value of turning work in on time and being accountable, but the fact is that I don’t think that giving zeros is a motivating factor for kids,” Pruitt said.
If a student is already not turning in his work, there is probably a reason for that, and that reason is not going to be addressed by giving him a zero,” Pruitt said.
Call for District Consistency
Chris Woodward, a sixth-grade teacher at Clarke Middle School, said he thinks that the change in grades may have been startling for parents.
I saw a kid who had a 93 on their progress report two weeks ago, and now it’s a 19,” Woodward said.
Woodward said the district’s intentions were in the right place, but they needed to be more consistent in order to avoid confusion.
“I think that there are some really good things the district is playing with. Like I like the idea of wanting to communicate information in a non-punitive way. I’m sure that that’s why they first told us to use incompletes, but I was against it from the beginning because then you have situations like this where you’ve set up expectations for kids and for families, and then you switch it,” Woodward said.
Impact of Zeros in Grading
Pruitt noted the system may help kids learn how to navigate life outside of school.
“You don’t get to ignore deadlines,” Pruitt said.
Although Woodward said there could have been more consistency, he prefers the missing work policy because it shows students that deadlines and what they do matters.
“As a classroom teacher, you are aware of the push and the pull that grades can have. At the end of last year when the school district decided to completely end in person and only do digital, kids didn’t show up and didn’t do any work because it didn’t matter. Like I’m all about bending to the will and needs of a kid, but you have to have high expectations,” Woodward said.
Make-Up Work for Students
Pruitt said the new missing policy is a good middle ground, and that the district is going to all lengths to give students every chance to turn missing work in.
“Maybe just announcing it as an incomplete maybe doesn’t give an accurate picture. Plugging in zeros for any missed assignment probably also doesn’t give an accurate picture of where that student is. So maybe the middle ground is to code that as missing, and say if they were to consistently not turn these things in, then the grade would be very low,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt also said that the school’s communication has been good.
“I feel like they have made every effort to communicate anything that we would want or need to know. I’ve gotten good communication from the leadership in each building as well as teachers,” Pruitt said.
It is not yet determined whether or not the grading system will change again when the Clarke County School District returns to in-person classes on Nov. 9.
Chelsey Perry is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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