RPS Holds Third Community Meeting on Grading System: Community Hears from College Admissions Representatives

In the last installment of a series of Webinar community meetings hosted by Revere High School Principal Dr. John Perella to discuss the possibility of changing how Revere grades its students, the community heard from a panel of college admissions representatives from four schools in the area.

RHS is exploring a switch from the traditional letter grading system to a more modern ‘standards-based’ grading system that is being used in some other Revere schools as well as numerous school districts across the state.

Standards-based grading (SBG) is an intentional way for teachers to track their students’ progress and achievements while focusing on helping students learn and reach their highest potential. It is based on students showing signs of mastery or understanding various lessons and skills. Standards-based grading is a way to view student progress based on proficiency levels for identified standards rather than relying on a letter grade that represents the sole measure of achievement.

The panel of college admissions representatives put some students and parents’ minds at ease over the possible change to grading as most agreed it would have little impact on how students are accepted to college.

“This is our third Revere High School community meeting. And we’ve been focusing the first three meetings all this, including this meeting on the grading changes that are taking place at Revere High School,” said Perella during last week’s meeting. “Just to recap, our first meeting was really sort of a historical review of a traditional grading system and how it has evolved, evolving into what we call a mastery based grading system. The second community meeting that we held was really focused on the perspective of the teacher and we were fortunate enough to have a few teachers present their perspective in the classroom and what it looks like on a daily basis for teaching and learning. And tonight, we are very honored to have guests, ranging from district administrators, as well as representatives from some of the best colleges around that we often send our students. And tonight, we’ll be looking at the grading changes from that perspective, specifically, of getting into how colleges view our grading system”

First, Diana Finn, a guidance counselor and director at RHS, gave a brief overview on what the district sends to colleges on behalf of students such as grades, recommendations, out of school activities as well as RHS’s school profile.

This helps college admissions make their final decision on a particular student but that decision is based on more than just grades–no matter what the grading system is at a given school district.

Mike Drish of UMass Amherst said that while academic achievement is a key component of the university’s review process it’s also equally important to weigh that against the school district’s profile and what a student has achieved outside of the classroom. He also said the type of grading system a district uses does not benefit or penalize a student from one district over a student from another district.

“But we don’t look at the academic transcript alone,” said Drish. “You heard talk about the school profile. Most High schools provide a profile and our readers look at that profile when they’re reviewing the transcripts. So they go hand in hand, because that context is so important. We know that every high school is different. Every High School has different opportunities, different courses, there are different sizes of different learning environments. We know that there are all kinds of different obstacles that students have faced as a result of the pandemic. So we look to the school to understand how the pandemic has affected students and their courses or their grades or things along those lines. And in the case of what you’ve been talking about tonight, and then past town halls, we look to the profile to understand grading scales and how schools are grading students in their courses. And we don’t hold that against the student. This is the school they attend. That’s the grading scale. Those are the courses offered. Those were the opportunities available to the student. We look at it within the context of the school they attend.”

Boston University’s Zoe Carter said she was happy that the panel could share some of its expertise with RHS and alleviate some fears as the school explores a new grading scale.

“I think a lot of my colleagues here have certainly shared many of similar facets of our review process,” said Carter. “You know, holistic review is really the name of the game at Boston University. At BU we really just make sure that we’re looking at every piece of the application, and every piece of context that each person brings to their application file. And we talk about context, a lot, the context of the student and where they’re coming from, where they grew up, what their family is like, what their high school environment is. It’s also really important that we understand the context of each individual school because we don’t look at one student applying from your high school, and then put them sitting next to another student applying from like, Saugus High School and say “Well, do they look similar? Do they look different?” because of course, the context is already different. So that’s something that’s really important to us.”

Carter said changing the district’s grading system would not confuse college admissions professionals because many other districts and states have already changed how they grade.

“I am the regional representative for Northshore, Massachusetts,” said Carter. “So I get to work with students who are coming from Revere and I also work with students that are applying from the states of Vermont and New Hampshire. And I don’t know if anyone on this call is aware, but certainly those states have moved significantly to grading that is not dissimilar from the grading scale that Revere is moving towards. So certainly, this isn’t something new. We do see this in other areas as well.”

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