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Fair and equitable grading focus of Turlock educator group

A large committee of Turlock Unified School District teachers and administrators are rethinking how they grade students.

The educators are participating in a book study, “Grading for Equity- What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms.”

Author Joe Feldman met with the book group and made a compelling argument for change and offered specific ways teachers can make profound differences in their grading practices, according to TUSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Shellie Santos.

Based on what they are reading, teachers are implementing some of the practices and sharing results in their monthly book group.

“With traditional grading, teachers often give students grades based on homework, tests, projects, classwork and class activities, as well as participation, effort and behavior.  There is significant subjectivity when evaluating nonacademic categories,” said Santos. “Equitable grading is used to ensure grades accurately reflect a student’s academic performance. The grade describes a student’s level of academic mastery. Homework, behavior etc. are not factored into a grade.”

While traditional grading uses a scale of 0-100%, equitable grading uses a scale of 0-50% or a 0-4 scale. According to Santos, research shows that teachers grade behaviors based on their subjective interpretation of those behaviors, what the author describes as “a recipe for inequity.”

TUSD is aiming to implement equitable grading to help students succeed and get a better understanding about what they’re learning.

“Our goal is to bring consistency to TUSD grading practices that are both accurate and fair for students. We want students to know what they are learning, where they currently are in their learning and what they need to do to close the gap,” said Santos.

The district also wants grades to stop being used as a way to punish or as incentive for students.

“We want equitable practices that provide students and families with an accurate evaluation of a student’s academic performance,” said Santos. “The belief is that grades should not be used to punish or incentivize students to complete tasks but rather used as a vehicle to measure their understanding.”