New gradebook software embeds standard grading philosophy for all KPS teachers and students

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Credit: Chloe Rathbun

PowerSchool has an app that you can download on your phone to easily access your grades. Many students are utilizing this feature to be constantly in the know about their grades!

Chloe Rathbun, Chief Copy Editor

At the beginning of this year, students were in for a shock when they tried to look at their grades on Home Access Center (HAC) and were met with an error message. 

For the new 2022-2023 school year, Kalamazoo Public Schools has switched over its grading software from HAC to the PowerSchool platform. 

At every school, KPS has trained one or more administrators on the ins and outs of PowerSchool. Social studies teachers James Johnson and Kyle Shack are Loy Norrix’s Facilitators of Instructional Technology. 

“The menus look a little different and things may be in different places, but essentially it’s all the same features,” said Johnson.  

According to Shack, this new system is an improvement from last year’s. With this change, KPS also decided to alter their grading policy. 

“Last year, only core classes had a grading scale that was mandated by the district and electives kind of did their own thing,” said Shack, “There were four different categories and they were all set at different weights.”

However, this year, KPS has set a standard grading policy that is programmed into PowerSchool. Tests and assessments are 90% of a student’s grade and the remaining 10% is homework and classwork.

KPS decided to change the grading policy to give teachers more flexibility with their grading as well as to stop what Johnson calls “compliance” grades.

They wanted to switch to the 90/10 percent grading policy to encourage teachers not to be just giving out points for compliance, like ‘are you in your seat on time?’ or ‘did you turn in your syllabus?’” Johnson continued. “Instead, they should emphasize what students learned.”

The new grading policy is meant to put greater importance on the actual content of the course.

“Although it’s tempting to think of it just as a test category, think of it as the category to demonstrate understanding,” said Shack. “In practice, it’s going to place a heavier emphasis on the activities or assignments that students complete where they are demonstrating their skills or their content mastering.”

Johnson has been entering in grades a little differently because of this new policy. 

For my class, I’m putting anything in that 90% category that I’m grading for correctness,” said Johnson. “I’ll let students redo it so that they can improve their grade and show that they’ve mastered that content. Anything that’s like participation or ‘I’m grading it for completion,’ then I would put that in the 10% category.”

However, some students have been struggling with the new emphasis on tests and assessments. 

“For students I think the biggest thing is how quickly grades can change. I think that’s something that most students were not prepared for,” said math teacher Corey O’Bryan. 

Junior Nateya Thomas was not prepared for the impact tests would have on her grade. She was shocked when she saw her grade in her math class go from over 100% to skimming just above a B- after she did poorly on a test. 

“As a student who has a perfect GPA and has never really had to deal with this before, it was crazy seeing the drastic change.” said Thomas,  “It’s just simply not fair, we do like one test and then your entire grade plummets. It doesn’t make any sense.”

With the new weights, one bad test can cause a student’s grade to drop significantly. 

“Now, especially because it’s the start of the year and the trimester, one bad score can drop you so much more as it normally would have,” said O’Bryan. “I think that’s a shock to the system. To a student, it’s really hard to understand that ‘I’m doing work every single day and it’s doing absolutely nothing to my overall grade.’” 

Since tests and assessments are weighted so heavily compared to classwork and homework, consistent grades in the 10% category have minimal impact on students’ overall grades. 

“Kids can just not do any of their homework and it won’t matter, but one test can just plummet their grade,” continued Thomas, “A lot of teachers are implementing test corrections, but I don’t think it’s really fair because people try so hard on their homework but it does nothing.”

However, Shack believes this will actually create more opportunities for students to truly learn the content.

“I totally understand feeling like ‘oh my goodness I’m not gonna do well on tests’ and that now is a larger portion of the grade,” said Shack. “Hopefully, the way that it’s gonna be implemented is that there are going to be a lot of opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding, but also demonstrate growth.”