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Board Members Excited To Advance New Grading System In Unit 5

Barry Hitchins
Carleigh Gray
Barry Hitchins will serve as the new Unit 5 school board president. He takes over from Jim Hayek, who left the board to relocate to Arizona for State Farm.

The Unit 5 school board discussed Wednesday how its schools are taking the next step in introducing a new approach to grading in the district.

Standards based grading rates student assignments and tests by numbers instead of letters indicating progress toward mastery, and not something to be averaged with other grades.

  • No evidence (0): Student has not submitted or produced evidence of understanding/applying of skill.
  • Beginning (1): Unable to demonstrate understanding or show application of skill without significant support.
  • Progressing (2): Inconsistently or with support is able to demonstrate understanding or show application of skill.
  • Proficient (3): Consistently demonstrates complete understanding and application of skills and concepts.
  • Exceptional (4): Demonstrates complete understanding/application of skill and concept and deeper learning of concepts skills beyond level explicitly taught.

School board member Meta Mickens-Baker said standards based grading allows students to learn at their own pace.
"I have the ability to impact my grade so this way I'll be able to show that, 'Yes, I learned this,' as opposed to, 'I didn't learn it as fast as somebody else,'" Mickens-Baker said.

Normal's middle schools currently use evidence-based standards in math, English, art and technology classes. The number system will apply to science, P.E. and fine arts courses next school year. 

Normal Community and Normal West high schoolers will continue to use letter grades but will eventually start receiving assessments students would get from the number system.

Credit Unit 5
"Learner characteristics" presented to the school board that would be separate from academic grades.

Standards based grading also works to create consistency among teachers that teach the same classes. The new grading system can add to an already heavy teacher workload. If a student does poorly on an exam or project, they have the option to "reassess," which could give a teacher an extra pile of papers to grade a second time.

Superintendent Mark Daniel said teachers need resources and technology to keep up with the more complex grading process that allows continued revisions of some assignments.

"If I have 180 students and they're constantly reassessing, that could be very burdensome. We need to be able to help them. Using technology and hopefully minimize the amount of time necessary, but also maximizing learning," Daniel said.

Board Officer Election

The school board has elected new officers. Barry Hitchins will serve as the new board president. He takes over from Jim Hayek, who left the board to relocate to Arizona for State Farm.

Hitchins joined the board in 2015 and was vice president. Michael Trask will serve as the new vice president. He was elected to the board in 2011.

Taunia Leffler is the new Unit 5 board secretary. Joe Cleary previously held the position. Leffler was elected to the board in 2017.

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Baylee Steelman joined us in November 2016. She is a journalism major graduating in May 2018. She mainly covers Bloomington City and Normal Town Council meetings, Unit 5 School Board meetings, produces the weekend News In Review, and helps run GLT events. Baylee also produces and anchors at TV-10, Illinois State University's student TV news station.
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