DUSD halts grading discussions | July 28, 2023 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - July 28, 2023

DUSD halts grading discussions

Board majority backs status quo; teachers share reflections

by Nicole Gonzales

Board members of the Dublin Unified School District have voted to halt further discussions of standards-based grading policies, removing the possibility of implementing the new system in local schools for the foreseeable future.

The district held a special board meeting last week to discuss and review material related to standards-based grading. After reviewing additional research, survey results and listening to public comments, the board majority ultimately decided to discontinue talks around the alternative grading system.

"I want to discontinue equity and standards-based grading. It's very simple. Let's get rid of this idea and put it to bed," Trustee Dan Cherrier said in vocalizing his opposition to the new grading system. "(Teachers) can still teach how they have always taught."

The special meeting came less than a month after Superintendent Chris Funk, who backed the proposal, led a presentation to the board about the benefits he sees with standard-based grading over the current system — which he described then as "an inequitable practice" much of which "does not grade anyone's mastery of the subject content". Funk's update was followed by a range of community comments, both to the board that night and afterward on social media and other public circles.

The board heard public comments for over one hour on July 18, with many of the speakers voicing their concerns about the proposed grading system.

Arzoo Nasarabadi, a science teacher at Dublin High School, went before the board to describe her experience as a teacher implementing standard-based grading.

Nasarabadi attempted to set up a trial of an equitable grading system in her 2022-23 AP environmental science course, which she said failed to benefit her students.

"It was an ambitious endeavor and at the start of the school year, I knew the transition to equitable grading would be bumpy," Nasarabadi told the board. "Nevertheless, I wrote up an appropriate syllabus, rehearsed my expectations and advocated for parent buy-in during back to school night."

"What resulted was a snowball effect of little disasters that eventually led to me abandoning equitable grading midway through the school year," she added. "What resulted was a hybrid model of equitable grading that left students discouraged and confused and some to develop study skills that would later result in lower AP scores."

Nasarabadi continued, saying that a transition to equitable grading would take a large amount of time, resources and training to be able to implement properly.

Monica Lewis, a teacher at Fallon Middle School, was a member of the initial standards-based grading trial period during the 2021-22 school year and shared her support of the new system, saying she experienced positive outcomes.

"I wish I had a whole hour to really explain to you what my experiences were, the amazing changes I saw in my students. The amazing changes I saw in myself as a teacher," Lewis told the board.

"Actually, the traditional way of teaching gives us a lot more leeway to be unfair and biased against our students," she said. "Under the traditional system that is not standards-based grading, I can make up whatever metric I want on what kids have to do to get an A."

"When you switch to standards-based grading, all of those little things that create bias are removed from the grade book," Lewis added.

Following the public comment portion, board members shared their reactions and took a vote on two related motions.

Board President Gabi Blackman expressed support for slowing down standards-based grading efforts.

"I think grading needs to demonstrate what students have achieved, the knowledge they've gained and can they use it effectively," Blackman said. "I would support the idea of slowing things down because I think in some ways we need to really assess how this actually syncs with what four year colleges are looking for."

Trustee Kristin Speck shared remarks that highlighted the possible benefits of standards-based grading, explaining that when looking at report cards, results can vary significantly depending on the instructor.

"Some students got 50%, some got 100%, and it's just depending on who they got and what that teacher's methodology is," Speck said, later adding:. "I believe we need to continue to get better as a district. We should always be striving to do the best for our students."

"Teachers collaborating together to figure out what's best for our students is part of this," Speck said. "One thing I like about the cohorts is that they have the structure to be together — they had support, and they had each other to discuss different aspects with."

Board members voted on the first motion to abandon the idea of a districtwide transition to standards-based grading within two years. The board was unanimously in approval of the motion, effectively halting all momentum of the new grading system.

On the second motion, members voted 3-2 to discontinue the existing standards-based grading cohorts in grades 7-12, with trustees Speck and Board Vice President Kristin Pelham dissenting. District staff was directed to stop efforts to encourage the grading style.


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