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PUSD eyes academic equity with grading practice overhaul

Original post made on Jun 30, 2021

A proposal to overhaul grading practices at Pleasanton Unified School District became a broader discussion about ensuring both academic equity and accountability for secondary students at the Board of Trustees meeting last Thursday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 30, 2021, 10:39 AM

Comments (19)

Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jun 30, 2021 at 3:14 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

I'm all for looking how to prevent grade inflation and how to ensure consistency and transparency in grading - these are good actions to take on.

This hippy BS on a student that turns in assignments late will be motivated by piling up work to turn them in on time vs getting a B vs an A is absolute hogwash. You reward the students that do assignments on time and to the full expectation, you take off points for assignments being turned in late - sorry this is the way the world works. Don't like it, fine, but don't set kids up for failure by setting an expectation of time irrelevance.

Posted by Todd
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 30, 2021 at 4:21 pm

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That’s not the way to prepare students for college and the work place. Most colleges dock for late work and most work places have disciplinary actions for tardiness. Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t PUSD write up teachers or staff for being late? Is it that hard to teach responsibility??

Posted by Rosie
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jun 30, 2021 at 5:20 pm

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I'm going to say that there are possible improvements on how we do grading. Sometimes slashing a grade 50% off for being 1 day late does seem harsh. However, all this reads to me is "how can we set up the k-12 PUSD grading so less students fail, thus our school looks more successful" vs what we should really be looking at which is "how can we help our students learn and become successful adults."

Let's just take this down the logical path 10 years down. The segment of students who likely have benefitted and coddled in this new "equitable" system learn 1) that there are no consequences in turning in anything late. 2) there will always be some sort of "institution" that will keep them from failing (the k-12 system). How do you think these kids will fair when they get into college (when they fail to turn in assignments on time, I doubt every university adopt this)? When they get a job and fail to deliver what's being asked? It's all rainbows and butterflies until reality hits.

I'm disappointed to see continued dumbing down of standards. If you always set a low bar for a kid, they will never be challenged to jump to their full potential. Sadly, the schools are doing this to themselves and the kids. I get it, they all want to "help" and hiring a consultant is the easy path. But making it easier to get better grade is not going to help them in the long run.

Alternatively, why are we not spending more extra funds on providing additional tutoring sessions for kids who might need it? 1:1 time really helps (vs spending it on consultants). Why don't we add curriculum or seminars for kids to learn life skills, money management skills, and emphasizing personal responsibility (even at a young age). I would argue that there are many more things that can be done to actually help our kids be successful and self reliant young adults vs just making sure they're not getting a bad grade to drag down PUSD rankings. Something needs to change, and it's not the grading policy.

Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 1, 2021 at 7:03 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Agreed, there's no free lunch......oh wait, now there is, and breakfast too. Schools are becoming better at solving how to feed students stomachs than they are at feeding their minds.

Posted by MichaelB
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 1, 2021 at 7:26 am

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"How do you think these kids will fair when they get into college (when they fail to turn in assignments on time, I doubt every university adopt this)? When they get a job and fail to deliver what's being asked? It's all rainbows and butterflies until reality hits."

The "reality" part is quickly changing...for the worse.

Anyone who does not deliver what is being asked can simply do what our elected officials and so called "progressive" activists are doing right now - claim that all of our nation's institutions (and any expectations of performance from them) are "systemically racist" and reflections of "white supremacy". They can then demand the government provide "equity" (preferential treatment, guaranteed employment, more "free" items from taxpayers, etc.) to resolve it.

Anyone who does perform well? They will be accused of "creating division" and "perpetuating stereotypes".

Posted by Jake Waters
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 1, 2021 at 8:16 am

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Everybody attached to the Public School system is rewarded by pay raises, which begs the question: For what? It is becoming very apparent that teaching is becoming a sweet Job. Just give the students an ‘A’ for showing up sometimes or eventually, and give them a grade for doing ‘lunch’ well.

Parents with any interest in their child’s education and future should look elsewhere for a system that actually educates and prepares them for the future- Charter Schools, Home Schooling, Private School, and others.

Leave the Progressives to pay for the school bonds.

Posted by LanceM
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2021 at 10:02 am

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@Jake Water - apparently you are clueless and have an agenda against teachers. This article has nothing to do with what teachers want. This is about what the district want to the teachers to do. They are going to hiring consultants to convince the school board and then mandate the teachers teach/grade this way. As described, it makes grading much harder for the teachers.

Talking about raises as a reward in pretty silly because PUSD teacher salaries have not kept up with inflation for the last 20+ years. Hardly a reward.

Posted by Brad
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 1, 2021 at 11:43 am

Brad is a registered user.

The Districts is joining other Districts in lowering standards and achievement.
All the recent actions of PUSD about " equity ", " racial Justice " and socialism are disgusting. I am one of many former proud of PUSD residents are pretty fed up. Spending $ 250.000 on a consultant to advise us to treat each other as normal human beings is a terrible waste.
AS Mao Tse Tung said " everyone should be equal- equally poor".
I have been a big supporter of PUSD for 52 years. I am disappointed that is coming to an end.

Posted by buklau
a resident of Avila
on Jul 1, 2021 at 12:16 pm

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What a great way to prepare our youth for their careers!

We should abolish GPA, SAT, and ACT altogether...that way students can apply to college with only their ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2021 at 2:05 pm

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How about implementing this for the actual neuro-divergent students that need it because they fall through the cracks rather than throwing up 504 and IEP roadblocks that not everyone has the money to overcome?

Is it really that difficult to provide written instructions for assignments or not penalizing for late work from a kid with undeveloped executive function skills without there being a specific accommodation for it in a 504 or IEP?

Train your teachers!

Posted by Linda
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 1, 2021 at 8:22 pm

Linda is a registered user.

I hope those who have been critical of evidence-based grading would do some more reading on the topic. You will find out that, instead of lowering standards or failing to hold students accountable, the approach does just the opposite.
Many seem concerned about a lack of consequences for students not turning in work. The consequence for not turning in work should be to REQUIRE that the work be completed. Under a "traditional" system, the student could simply receive a zero and never be required to complete the work. This does not contribute to the student's learning. There are many ways to teach and reward punctuality and responsibility without making them a part of the assessment of how well a student understands concepts and performs required skills.
If we are truly interested in a rigorous curriculum that holds students accountable for their learning, then students need to be assessed on how well they can perform required skills and demonstrate their knowledge of content standards, not on how well they comply with rules. This does not mean that rules are unimportant. There are many academic behaviors that can contribute to student success, but assessing these behaviors is not the purpose of a report on student learning.
Check out Mr. Feldman's book, Grading for Equity. It provides a rich and well-researched explanation of what evidence-based grading is and why it is favored by so many educational leaders.

Posted by Todd
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 1, 2021 at 8:55 pm

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Let me see here - two candidates for the job - one shows up on time and one shows up late - gee wonder which candidate is most likely to get hired??? Give me a break people.

Posted by Rosie
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 1, 2021 at 10:40 pm

Rosie is a registered user.

We as parents really need to start emailing and speaking up more at the school board meetings. We can complain and whine all we want on these message boards, but the Board members will vote all this in as usual. It's not PC to vote against anything labeled with the words "equity" in it in the current environment, unless they know there is a lot of parents against this.

Two other points:

1) Consultants will consult. That's how they make their money. Do you actually think this $250K will be the end of the spending? They will continue to propose ideas and things to implement, because they'll keep banking a paycheck. And if in 5 years we do not see actual positive results, the Board will just say, "well we relied on the did we know it wouldn't work?" Look up at all the comments against this. We all know coddling doesn't work.

2) Again, I do think that there IS some adjustments that could be made around grading, however it seems that all these consultant suggestions will be putting the onus on our already stretched thin TEACHERS. I do appreciate the great teachers my kids have had at PUSD. I want them to also have good work life balance. Making them once again shift and change how they teach/grade is going to be adding another level of stress that I'm not sure is warranted.

I do like the prior suggestion from other poster above that we should make some considerations for those on IEPs. Those are the students that could use some extra grace and personalization. Kids NEED the structure at this age. They NEED to be challenged. Once again, this is a lazy move on the school board's direction in virtue signaling while wasting away more time and precious resources that could be directed at our students AND teachers.

I'm also very concerned with the adjustment to math tracking. Once again, removing opportunities for kids to excel by dumbing down all. I hope more parents are now paying attention to what's on the agendas in each meeting moving forward.

Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 2, 2021 at 8:41 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

I wish the board and district would stop making excuses and lowering the bar. This community has seen nothing but grade forgiveness in the last two years.

Oh, you're failing during the pandemic? No problem, that C, D, F won't count - and guess what, that 1 A you got in PE put you on the honor role - congratulations!

Don't want to turn in your assignments on time - no problem, when you get around to it we'd really appreciate it, thanks.

Get out of here with this BS. Rosie is right, its time to take back PUSD. The leadership is failing us and the board is allowing it to happen.

And lets not forget the $35M we just gave them to build a school they decided not to build.....and the $40M (or however much the prior bond was to do the same) school. Enrollment is down...really? Because every house I see selling is going to a family with school aged kids.

This board needs to go, administrators need to see the shot across the bow and make meaningful changes or go next.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 2, 2021 at 11:22 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

First, you have to get rid of the person(s) making the recommendations to the board or nothing will change.

Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 3, 2021 at 11:24 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Kathleen, what would it take for you to run? I think you’re balanced.

Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jul 3, 2021 at 2:56 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

Back to the original topic.

Most of this conversation has been about people guessing what would happen. Only a very few on here are education experts, and fewer are likely experts in contemporary test theory.

So why not do both as an experiment for a year? Let students get the higher of the grade on a normal system and one on the proposal. Then see what happens the following year. If a statistically and practically relevant group does show better classical outcomes by providing them the boost, so be it. If it instead leads to hogwash, good to know too.

I think the fear is that the board will rush into something blindly without actually trying it experimentally with real (non subjective) metrics. That’s a valid fear. Let’s not make big permanent changes until we know they’ll work locally.

Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2021 at 9:14 pm

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

By Feldman’s logic, let’s make teachers’ paycheck dates flexible as long as they are get paid the total by the end of the fiscal year. Right?

When I was a graduate student getting my MS, 80% of the students were international. Seems like PUSD wants to make that 100%

Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 8, 2021 at 8:33 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

I do agree with Grumpy that any new approach should be tested and validated in a pilot program and spread vs just implementing. This is a good suggestion.

That said, this is still stupid.

Here's an easy test:
I owe the IRS taxes, they must accept that I'll pay the full amount owed when I want, so long as I eventually pay it in full, without penalty.

Oh they won't, accept that.

Ok, then learning to turn things in on time or face a penalty to drive the desired behavior makes sense.

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