Academic Departments Revamp Grading and Revision Policies

When students returned from summer break, they were met with a school-wide shift in rewrite, retest, and grading policies.

Over the summer, Mr. Richard Davis, dean of academic life, worked closely with the department heads to improve and modify academic policies to reduce stress on students and ensure equity for all students. As part of professional development, all faculty read Grading For Equity, a book by Joe Feldman that describes how certain grading practices can prevent bias. According to Mr. Davis, the conversations around this book helped to bring about the revision of the school’s academic policies.

Among these changes is a uniform policy for many departments on when rewrites and retests will be permitted. In the math department, all sections of a course were encouraged to develop uniform policies. The English department allows students to rewrite all submitted work during marking period one, but students are allowed two rewrites in marking periods two and three, and one in marking period four. The grades from the original submission and the rewrite will be averaged for the final grade, except in the fourth marking period, where the new grade will replace the old grade. Mr. Frankenbach, instructor in English, explained the reasoning behind the new policy: “Revision is writing. We see conversations between students and teachers about refinement of drafts as integral. I don’t see our most recent statement about revision as a big change – I see it as a current iteration.” Mr. D’Ambrosio, head of the humanities and social sciences department, said, “[In the past], teachers [were] given discretion [to determine revision policies]. We found that led to an inconsistent student experience.” 

The new policy also stipulates that students’ marking period grades are no longer weighted to determine their semester grade. Now, marking period grades are simply an indication of what one’s grade would be if the semester ended right then. Mr. Davis said, “I do think it’s good that we are consistent across departments now. When we made this change in the classical and modern languages department, we moved to not weighting the marking periods in order to minimize unintended consequences when the number of assessments varies between marking periods.”

On these changes, Ryan Tse ’23 remarked, “For me, there are both advantages and disadvantages, but overall these changes make grading more fair. There is a stigma around some teachers, that they [grade] harder than [others]. There’s often this belief that when someone gets a certain grade, it’s only because that teacher is nice or they personally allow certain types of retakes. I think eliminating this personal preference is more fair overall.”  

The school will continue to seek ways to ensure equitable grading across academic departments.