By Patrick Bryant
For senior Elise Ruff, the end of her high school career begins with a new format for grading periods. This change will alter not only the length of grading periods from six six-week periods to four nine-week periods, but also the formula for determining how each grading period will affect her overall semester grade.
Ruff said she was indifferent about the subject when she first heard about the change last year.
“I was neutral on the subject,” Ruff said. “There were both some benefits and disadvantages to the change.”
According to principal John Williams, the change was a district decision that aimed to create a more consistent system for all of the elementary and middle schools as well as the high school to adhere to.
“Our school corporation wanted to have a consistent grading scale and length for grading periods,” Williams said regarding the new grading system.
English teacher Dale Yessak said the change will bring this school into a format similar to that of many colleges.
For example, both IU and Purdue operate on four eight-week grading periods to determine grades.
Countless high schools throughout central Indiana switched to nine-week grading periods during the past few years. This school is the last public high school in Hamilton County to make the switch.
Unlike Ruff, who will take part in a grading system consisting of four nine-week grading periods for the first time this year, sophomore Rachel Morgan will undergo the change for the second time.
When she was in seventh grade, all Carmel Clay middle schools made the switch to quarters, a change that Morgan said had little to no impact on her grades or study habits.
Although she said the transition was not difficult, maintaining focus for nine straight weeks was a challenge.
“I actually thought that it was harder to maintain my grades,” Morgan said. “I seemed to become less interested with school after nine straight weeks with no fresh start.”
Williams said he feels that a big part of the success of the change will depend on the communication between teachers and students regarding progress and performance in the classroom.
“Either way you do it, there are pros and cons. You could argue on either side,” Williams said. “The key is communication, and if the school doesn’t communicate when kids are doing well or when they’re not doing well, then the school isn’t doing it’s job.”
However, the communication, which often comes in the form a report card, will appear less often with the implemention of the new grading system.
Sophomore Charlie Walker, whose middle school operated on nine-week grading periods as well, said he prefers the more frequent feedback of six-week grading periods. The decrease in communication is one of Walker’s main concerns regarding the nine-week grading periods.
“I really like the feedback I received throughout the year,” Walker said. “With the nine-week grading periods, I won’t have a reminder of the progress I make each six weeks.”
Yessak said he doesn’t believe that there will be less communication since myCCS will provide the students with regular updates regardless of the length of grading periods.
“I think there’s ample feedback,” Yessak said. “MyCCS is constant feedback, and although it’s not required here, most teachers send out progress reports.”
Yessak said he realizes most students prefer the “fresh start” that comes with each new grading period but believes more time will help teachers and students with planning and organizing assignments.
“Most students like the fresh start, so initially it will be a tough transition for students,” Yessak said. “But in the long run, they have more time to make up work they’ve missed and it allows teachers to plan differently.”
As for Walker, he said he hopes he can maintain the motivation throughout the nine weeks. In addition, he doesn’t expect to make changes right away and plans to adjust to the new grading period as the year progresses.
However, he said he plans to devote additional attention over the course of the extended grading periods.
“I feel like I lost motivation halfway through (the grading periods) because there was not enough time to reflect on what I’d done,” Walker said. “I’ll probably have to focus more.”
Ruff still said she worries about how much weight each nine weeks will have on the outcome of her semester grade. It could either give students who perform poorly more time to improve or cause problems with a significantly more weighted grading period. Ruff said she feels it prevents improvement.
“Some of the few disadvantages to the change could be extremely detrimental,” she said of the new grading periods.
Williams said students will approach the change in different ways. While some will take advantage of the extended grading period to maintain a desired grade, others will aim to recover from an unsatisfactory grade. Regardless, the grade will reflect how much each student has learned.
“(The teachers) need to make sure the grade is a reflection of what (the students) learned,” Williams said regarding concerns about the implications of the new grading system.
Yessak said the grading committee, in which he is a member, believes it has made every effort to guarantee that students can still improve from a bad grade.
“We’re working to make sure students who do badly won’t necessarily be sunk,” Yessak said.
According to Williams, who made a final decision on this year’s formula last May, said the change will entail a 40-40-20 system. Each grading period will have a 40 percent value and the final exam will be worth 20 percent of the semester grade.
This formula will allow students the opportunity to pass the semester even after failing either one grading period or the final exam.
Morgan believes the weight of the final exam does not properly reflect the effort of each student.
She said she finds it unfair that students can fail one grading period but still pass the semester and believes student performance throughout the nine weeks depends on maintaining motivation.
“People should try hard all of the time,” she said. “People could get a better grade by getting an F one grading period and an A (for) the others (and be compared to) someone who genuinely works hard all the time and gets Cs.”
“I do not like the final being worth that much of my grade,” she said. “If people try really hard during the grading periods and not so much on the final, the test will not reflect the true grade that they should receive.”
On the other side of the issue, Ruff said she believes that receiving a good grade in some classes might cause assignments and tests at the end of the grading period to have less importance.
“I feel that with the nine-week grading period, you are given an opportunity to take some assignments less seriously if you have a good grade, and that’s not how school works,” Ruff said.
On the contrary, Morgan said she would not be too concerned if she didn’t do well on a test at the beginning of the grading period because she would have an additional three weeks to recover.
“If I didn’t get as good of a grade as I would’ve liked in the beginning of the grading period, it would have less effect on my grade because there are eight weeks left,” Morgan said.
Yet Williams said he feels the change won’t affect how easy or difficult it will be to receive a desired grade and believes that students will have to continue to put forth effort in order to succeed.
“I do not think it will be any easier to get a good grade,” Williams said. “Students will still have to continue to work and put forth effort to earn grades.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the print version of this story under “How to calculate your semester grade,” students should not use the 12 point scale. Instead they should directly use the percent received during each grading period and on the final. Consult page 21 of your CHS Pathways for more information.