Academics

New Schoology policy hides cumulative grades

It’s the middle of the trimester, and you know what you got on the latest test, but you do not know where your overall grade stands. That was the case for many students last trimester, and could very well be for the rest of the academic year. For the past two years Dana Hall students have been able to see their grades instantly by simply refreshing Schoology. Now, they will have to work a little harder to find to their grades.

The Schoology grading system has been used at Dana Hall for three years. Students can submit assignments and assessments on Schoology, and their teachers input their grades for them to see. However, the latest Schoology update gives teachers more control on what students are able to see, and a new school policy requires teachers to “block” the trimester grade and overall year grade from student view.

According to Ms. Jessica Keimowitz, Director of the Upper School, this new policy originated for a couple of reasons. She explains, “since we [Dana Hall] don’t mandate uniform use of the Schoology gradebook, not every teacher has up-to-date information or complete information in that gradebook.” Some teacher use it, others do not, and some may input only some grades (such as using the gradebook for homework grades but not major tests or quizzes). Ms. Keimowitz says, “I can’t tell you how many times parents and students would come to me or advisors and say ‘I don’t understand, I thought I was doing fine, and my grade came and I was doing terribly.” Some students had an inflated sense of their grades because they were looking at only a partial record of their grades for the term.

In addition, many teachers observed that students developed an unhealthy obsession with grades, as a result of having such easy access to them. The change in policy is thus designed to relieve the stress of the students “engaging in unhealthy behavior with the refresh button on Schoology,” says Ms. Keimowtiz. Student would refresh the Schoology page after every assessment to see their new average. Removing a cumulative grade allows the student to focus more “on what they can do better,” explains Ms. Keimowitz.

But there are students like Jane Hua ’17 who are on the more moderate end. She says, “I’m not the person that checks their grade every five seconds, but I need to know where I’m at, and that’s what a lot of people have been telling me they feel too.” Students may always ask their teachers for a grade update.

This change in policy may not affect students new to the Upper School, who have never been able to instantly access their cumulative grades. Other students who have been in the Upper School for longer, such as Raya Husami ’16, say, “it is more stressful for me not to know how I’m doing in a class.”

Students who have not updated their Schoology app or use it on their phones are still able to get around the policy because the cumulative grade can’t be “hidden” in the older version of the app. In some cases, students find someone who has not updated her Schoology app, and that person becomes a point of access between them and their grades. Latin teacher Jacqui Bloomberg says she is concerned about the “lack of equity [because some students can see grades and others can’t], but the reality is that we’re not trying to hide grades. If [grades] are inaccurate, or you’re not having the conversation with the teacher, the same problems are happening as the result of getting around the system.”

The key is transparency in grades, stresses Ms. Keimowitz. Ms. Linda Derezinski, English teacher, describes her grades as straightforward; for example, she does not give participation grades that would give students an “artificial sense of what [their] grade was.” Nonetheless, Ms. Derezinski says that hiding grades on Schoology is a “great option, but if I were left to my own devices I wouldn’t do it; I have always revealed my grades.” Revealing grades lets students “know that they’re failing [and] lets it not be up to me to know that they’re failing; [they] know that they need to scramble now if they are failing,” she adds.

Other teachers practice transparency in different ways. Science teacher Ms. Cynthia Welch does not use Schoology. She tells students that they are free to ask for a grade update whenever they like, and they receive a paper printout of their grade report after an assignment, test, or quiz. Ms. Welch says she likes this system because “students don’t necessarily think every minute or after every assessment about what their grades are.”

Ms. Derezinski says that grades “are the currency we deal in.” They are the way we rank a student’s ability here at Dana Hall and at almost every school. The Schoology policy will not change how teachers measure a student’s abilities, only the visibility of grades.

Image source: Life of an Educator, http://www.justintarte.com/2014/09/is-your-gradebook-supportive-of-learning.html.