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Lafayette Parish School System Uniform Grading Policy

Changes have occurred regarding the grading practices of the Lafayette Parish School System, and the release of the first nine weeks report card has prompted questions from many parents. Change is difficult and it does take time, discussion, and support for teachers, students, and parents to understand the changes.

The Louisiana Department of Education requires all local educational authorities to complete a policy document called the Pupil Progression Plan.  This plan is revised annually and is adopted by the school board of each parish. The document essentially functions as a policy, setting the achievement benchmarks students must meet to be promoted from one grade to the next. One important component of the plan includes the rules governing grading practices.

A committee made up of district leaders, teachers, school-based administrators, and parents update the plan annually and make recommendations for changes to the school board, including the development of Uniform Grading Practices. A focus of the process is aligning Lafayette Parish School System’s assessments with the Louisiana Department of Education’s assessments.

The Louisiana State Department of Education has established academic standards for seven subjects, including English language arts (reading and writing), math, science, social studies, foreign languages, physical education and health. “Academic standards define the knowledge and skills that students are expected to learn in a subject in each grade. Academic standards are designed to provide a clear path for students to gain the proficiency that is required to learn increasingly complex material in the next grade. Students who learn the knowledge and skills defined by the academic standards, year after year, are on track to graduate from high school on time and ready to enter college or the workforce.”  See www.louisianabelieves.com for the complete document.

Aligning state curriculum and assessments with local instructional and grading practices to measure  state  standards  is  referred  to  as  standards-based  grading.  Standards-based  grading involves measuring students' proficiency or mastery of established state academic standards. Standards-based   grading  defines what students  need  to  know  but  not how students  learn or how teachers instruct.

District academic staff and teachers use the state academic standards to develop curriculum maps, pacing charts, lesson plans, assignments and assessments that help their students master the knowledge and skills defined by the academic standards.  Students in grades 3 through 11 take state assessments in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. These assessments are aligned to the Louisiana academic standards and students are measured towards mastery of the standards, so the idea of a standards-based approach to grading would create a grading system aligned to the way students are graded on high stakes state assessments.

One of the considerations the committee addressed with standards-based grading was the distinction between formative and summative assessments and what relative weight each type of assessment should carry. After several in-depth discussions, the committee reached consensus that formative assessments should be 40% of a student’s grade and summative assessments would be 60% in any given grading period.  The committee also recommended that there should be a minimum of 4 formative and 4 summative assessments recorded for each grading period.

Since the current Pupil Progression Plan was adopted by the board, school leaders have been working hard to educate teachers, students, and parents about the new grading system; however, because the weighted grades mark a significant change in practice, some students and teachers are still working to develop a complete understanding of the new requirements. Lafayette Parish principals were recently presented with additional information on how to handle questions about grading policy, practices, and procedures. This spring, the Pupil Progression Plan process will review current policies.  Parents interested in being a part of the process should inform their child’s principal.

Parents seeking more information on the definition of terms, current grading practices, examples of grade calculations, and the 2016 – 2017 Pupil Progression Plan can visit the Lafayette Parish School System’s website at  http://www.lpssonline.com/site140.php#PPP .  If a parent wishes to seek more information regarding their child’s grade, the parent should contact their child’s teacher to schedule a conference.  If the parent is not satisfied with the teacher’s explanation, the parent should contact the school and request an appointment with an administrator. A referral to the School Building Level Committee (SBLC) could occur if the grading issue reflects a need for more academic assistance for the child.