Hoping for ‘Transformation', Waterbury Public Schools to Keep Adjusted Grading Scale

Last year, Waterbury Public Schools made changes to its grading scale to try to help students struggling to keep up during the pandemic.

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Getting rid of zero. For another school year, Waterbury’s grading scale will only go as low as 50. And with uncertainty due to Covid-19 still here, Waterbury officials say that it makes sense to keep the new grading policy for now.

“We are looking for transformation in how we go about grading and assessing students,” said Darren Schwartz, Waterbury Public Schools chief academic officer.

To that end, Waterbury Public Schools says it’s keeping changes made to the grading scale last year for the 2021-2022 school year.

This is the breakdown: 75% of a student’s performance will depend on assignments, 25%. There are no midterms or finals. The grading scale will run from 50 to 100, which means the lowest grade a student can get on any assignment is 50, not zero.

During public comment at a Board of Education meeting Thursday night, a couple of people spoke out against keeping the changes. But Schwartz says a zero dilutes a student’s grade and makes it unclear how much the student actually mastered the subject. He says a 50 is still considered failing.

Grading changes made by Waterbury Public Schools during the pandemic may be here to stay, despite some students still struggling to succeed.

“Assigning zeros is not an effective response to poor academic performance or misbehavior. There is not a single study that supports the use of low grades or marks that work to motivate students,” said Schwartz.

With the changes in effect last year, Waterbury Public Schools says the number of students who received an ‘A’ dropped compared to the year prior. The total number of failures more than doubled. That means almost a quarter of the 19,000 kids enrolled failed last year.

“Even though we had an increase in our failure rate, I think we probably fared better than other districts who did use that zero to 100 scale,” said Schwartz.

School officials say midterm and finals take up about 14 days due to prep time and giving the tests. They say by eliminating those tests, that time can be used for instruction instead.

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