CMS rolling out new grading system that allows test retakes

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is rolling out a new grading system this year that will allow students who score poorly on tests to redo assignments for a higher score.

At its heart, the new way of grading is intended to ensure that students fully grasp the concepts they are assigned, recognizing that children learn at different paces, CMS leaders say.

The system has become increasingly common as school districts grapple with how to avoid discouraging students with low scores on assignments that can threaten their overall grade in the class.

But it also can draw criticism from parents who feel students don’t receive the grades they earned.

Here’s generally how it works: If a student takes a formal test or turns in a paper that earns below an 84 – the highest “C” grade – he or she would be able to spend more time studying the topic and retake the test or redo the assignment. The highest score the student will then be able to earn on the assignment is an 84.

The plan will apply to all schools at all grade levels, but not necessarily every assignment. CMS chief academic officer Brian Schultz described the grading plan not as a policy, but as an agreement among principals and the district.

That would allow variation among schools on how exactly the plan will be implemented. For example, teachers have the option to, but are not required to, continue to offer a test until the student scores above an 84.

A student who does not complete the assignment or show effort on it will still receive a zero. “It’s really an attempt to ensure that students have opportunities to master the work before moving on,” Schultz said.

CMS has been researching and experimenting with possible changes to the grading system since before Superintendent Heath Morrison took over two years ago. Mallard Creek High School piloted a system last year that set the lowest grade a student could earn on a test at 50.

Wake County has been weighing similar policies. The county school board ultimately decided to allow individual principals to create their own grading plans and direct teachers to come up with “grade recovery plans” for struggling students.

The CMS grading plan is in place for Monday’s start of school. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board has not yet heard a formal presentation on the matter but could at Tuesday’s meeting, chairwoman Mary McCray said.

“I know some teachers are in favor, some people may not be,” she said. “Any time a child doesn’t do well on a test, there could be some mitigating factor. … I think this is a good thing as long as we look to why the student failed the test.”

Vanessa Ashford, principal at Irwin Academic Center, said the grading plan could be especially helpful for the younger students at her elementary school.

“Little kids are funny about tests,” she said. “Giving students another opportunity is good when they’re young. They are still learning how to learn.”

The system has already drawn some detractors.

Ann Marie Lloyd, a Charlotte resident and former teacher, said she has emailed school board members in opposition.

“I just think we’re giving away points,” she said. “It seems like we keep going toward the give-away system.”

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