Grades Take a Retake

The Upper School administration is releasing a new grading philosophy to be implemented in the 2022-2023 school year. The new framework aims to improve consistency and kinship across departments and will be implemented alongside Lakeside’s move to Canvas in the fall. The policy centers on transparent and timely grading, Upper School Director Felicia Wilks says. “The bottom line is that the grade is supposed to communicate to a student their progress.”
Among others, a focus of the new grading philosophy will be setting a minimum number of graded assignments each quarter. Recognizing that some students prefer few, major assessments while others prefer many smaller ones, the administration is considering minimum numbers of graded assessments and those that students can retake every grading period. The minimum is about “making sure that students have enough graded opportunities in each quarter,” Ms. Wilks says. She estimates “three or four” graded assessments per quarter; the administration will announce their decision in the fall.
The new policy will also standardize late work. Seeing that students given the whole semester to finish late work ended up with projects piling up, the new policy states that after one week of late work, teachers will reach out to the student; after two weeks, teachers will reach out to the student and their advisor; and after three weeks, the student will simply arrange to complete and turn in the project during a class period or free.

The aim is simply that ‘you go into something with an understanding of what’s expected of you.’”

Aiding these policies, rubrics will also be required for every major assignment at the time of their announcement. “Ninth graders spend half the year figuring out what’s expected: what’s A-level work? What’s not?” Ms. Wilks says. The new philosophy, requiring rubrics from teachers and encouraging models of past student work, hopes to help with the learning curve (i.e., learning about the learning curve); the aim is simply that “you go into something with an understanding of what’s expected of you,” she says.
Students familiar with Lakeside departments’ various grading methods may recognize the English department’s 4.0 scale, the history department’s rubrics, and the math department’s perfect quizzes in this new system. “Each department owns one piece of this,” Ms. Wilks says, aiding a transition in the works since she arrived at the Upper School in 2017. “When I got here, there was nothing in our curriculum guide about what grades meant.” The shifts to lightly weighted grades and reduced projects, including canceled finals, during the pandemic further highlighted the disparities in grading across departments. “Mr. Noe, coming out of that, had a push for some common experience,” she recalls. “It was like wind behind the sails for us to put a fine point on this before he or I leave the school.”
Indeed, this shift to the new grading philosophy comes with two other transitions at Lakeside: the arrivals of incoming Upper School Director Ryan Boccuzzi and Head of School Kai Bynum. Both will assume their positions in June, so Ms. Wilks’ and Mr. Noe’s parting policy will serve as a pilot for them, wherein they will collect student feedback and adjust as necessary.