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The English Department Adopts a New Grading Scale

The English department has been experimenting with a new grading system this trimester, with the goal of prioritizing learning over grades. 

The system uses a rubric that defines the standards of success on each essay assignment. 

If the student’s writing meets the standard, they receive the grade “Meeting Standards,” which translates to an 85% in the gradebook. If the students exceed the standard, they get an “Above Standards,” which translates to a 95%. If the student is not meeting the standards, they will receive either a “Working towards Standards” or a “Beginning,” which translates to a 75% or a 65%, respectively. Students can revise any major writing assignment for a replacement grade as many times as they wish. The system is mainly being used for 9th, 10th, and 11th graders, but not with seniors so that they didn’t have a system change in their last year at Dana Hall. 

The old grading system used a 0-100 scale, with some teachers choosing to do revisions and some not. The new system moves away from the percentages or letter grades of the old system. 

According to Kaitlin Brandt, an English teacher at Dana Hall, the new grading system is far superior, because it “encourages students to return to their work, use feedback effectively, and have a growth mindset about their writing.” She said that this works well because feedback is more meaningful when students have the opportunity to actually apply it to their writing. Ms. Brandt also stated that because students appreciate the revision process and are working hard at it, that she’s “seeing more improvement in writing than in the past.” One of the struggles of the new system that she mentioned was that some students don’t understand how the weighted categories work and she plans to start the second trimester by explaining it again and making sure everyone understands.

According to Linda Derezinski, head of the English department, the four-point grading scale reduces stress around writing assignments and allows teachers to grade more fairly, by having everyone use the same point scale. According to Mrs. Derezinski, using a 0-100 scale is more subjective. While one teacher might take points off for late work, another may not. So, where a student may receive a 92 from one teacher, they could receive an 85 from a different teacher. The four-point scale prevents this by making grading more consistent between teachers and classes. Mrs. Derezinski discussed how the old system of grading wasn’t working very well because English, unlike math or science, isn’t just concrete topics where you either know it or you don’t. She said, “We’re teaching the skill of writing, which is more subjective.”  She asked how you can really tell the difference between a 92 and a 95 and said that grading is more consistent with the new system, because it’s about whether you exceeded expectations or not. 

Some students are finding it difficult to adjust to the different system of grading. For example, Alexis Brunelli ‘24 stated, “The old way is better because it’s more consistent with other classes.” She also said that she feels that smaller assignments have more effects on grades than they did in the past. According to Alexis, the old system is better because “It’s easier to tell what you did well on and what you didn’t do well on.” Rayyan Afif  ‘24 agreed with Alexis’ statement. She said, “It’s hard because you only have four options. You can only get a 65, a 75, an 85, or a 95. There’s no in between.” She did, however, say that she liked how the revision system works, and that it takes away a lot of stress, being able to revise major writing assignments. 

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