Shelby County High Schools switching to categorical grading system

Published 1:26 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2015

All high schools within the Shelby County Schools district will be switching grading systems to categorical grading beginning with the 2015-2016 school year. (File)

All high schools within the Shelby County Schools district will be switching grading systems to categorical grading beginning with the 2015-2016 school year. (File)

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA–The new school year is here once again and all the high schools within the Shelby County School district will see a system wide change to the grading system.

In order to better reflect student learning and achievement, beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, secondary teachers in Shelby County Schools will utilize a district-wide grading system. Grades will be divided into three weighted categories: Gold, Silver, and Bronze.

Dr. Lynn Cook, assistant superintendent of instruction for Shelby County Schools, pointed out the changes during an instruction report at the Aug. 4 Board of Education meeting.

“We are changing our grading to categorical grading which was a recommendation from advanced ed when we had our accreditation back in the fall that we get uniform with our grading practices among all of our schools,” said Cook. “For high school, everyone is moving to categorical grading.”

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller agreed that the move to categorical grading was the right move for the schools.

“It raises the level of expectation for our students,” said Fuller.

Cook explained to the board members the definition of categorical grading while also giving examples of how it works.

“If we do categorical grading, it means that we weigh things differently,” said Cook.

The gold category will be 60 percent of a students grade and includes major assignments, test and projects. The silver category represents 30 percent of a students grade and can consist of quizzes, assignments that build to a gold level project or paper, collaborative work, lab reports, class work and more. Lastly, the bronze category is worth 10 percent of a students grade and this category is made up of homework, bell ringers, participation, study guides and more. These weighted categories will represent a students total grade over a nine week period.

Cook said that Chelsea High School has already been using categorical grading for several years as well as Helena High School, as the school is preparing to start its second full year.

“We printed out a lot of student grades and that’s where we can give you an example of it and we’ve seen it work both ways,” said Cook. “We’ve had a student who passed the tests and did really well and knew the knowledge, but they didn’t participate well in turning in their homework and they still made a 59 in the class. We looked at the other way around where the students did poorly on the tests, so they didn’t have proficiency in the standards, but because of their participation in daily assignments, quizzes and homework they had a B. By putting it in categories and weighting it a little bit differently, then the students will know a test grade is way more important than a homework grade. The grades more accurately reflect what it is that they know and this is going to be new for a lot of our schools.”

The first day of the school year for all Shelby County Schools is Wednesday, Aug. 12.