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News from 2023-2024

Posted: August 2, 2023

APS Pilot Program Aims to Standardize Grading Across District

About 100 teachers participated in kickoff sessions last week.

How does Albuquerque Public Schools plan to improve outcomes for all students?

APS leaders have come up with a recipe for doing just that. It calls for a heaping truckload of clear expectations, 142 schools worth of rigorous instruction, an army of engaged students, and a six-story building’s worth of responsive and coordinated systems. Cooking time is a little more than five years.

Of course, none of those ingredients are available off the shelf, so APS educators are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on growing what they need.

One component of rigorous instruction, for example, is aligning grading across the district so that an A at one school means the same thing as an A at a school across town.

Last week, as students and many educators were savoring their final days of summer break, about a hundred APS teachers were at Berna Facio Professional Development Center taking part in a two-day training aimed at getting them to recognize subjectivity in the grading process.

Trainers stressed that grades should be:

  • Accurate reflections of a student’s academic performance.
  • Bias-resistant. Teachers were urged to counteract institutional biases and prevent implicit biases from “infecting” grades.
  • Motivational. Grades should build students’ intrinsic motivation or self-control and sense of being able to get something done.

The Grading Pilot runs through May, with the teachers taking part in four coaching sessions and several more workshops.

During the kickoff sessions, participants discussed practices that can be unfair to students.

Teachers were told that even something like giving extra credit for participating in an outside activity can be unfair because it rewards students who have the resources to do that activity while not factoring in that some students might have to work after school or might not be able to do it because of family obligations, transportation obstacles, or not having the money.

Educators also discussed the pitfalls of factoring in attitude, class participation, and even behavior in grading.

A student who takes notes in class might appear to be more engaged, but the student not taking notes might actually be learning more, the facilitator noted. Similarly, cultural differences could be the reason for one student regularly engaging in class discussions and another student not engaging.

Other teachers touched on strict classroom rules and behavioral issues.

“We want them to be independent thinkers, so why are we not trusting them to get up to blow their nose or sharpen their pencil?” one asked. “What are we doing?”

Another noted that behavioral issues are often the result of outside factors: “Teachers shouldn’t be taking behavior personally. A lot of students have things happening outside of school.”

The bottom line, teachers were told, grades should be based on what a student has learned and can demonstrate.

“Students deserve honesty and dignity,” the facilitator said. “They deserve the truth.” 

Teachers not in the Grading Pilot who want to learn more still have an opportunity. The district, in collaboration with the Crescendo Group, is offering book studies, 2-day institutes with sub coverage, and a free online course. There are 200 slots available for the online course, and anyone interested is asked to enroll by completing the Self-Guided Grading Course formFor information on the 2-day institutes and book studies email Thereasa Ambrogi at ambrogi@aps.edu.