Stuyvesant Administration Updates Grading Framework

Principal Seung Yu and the Stuyvesant administration have released an updated school-wide grading framework for the upcoming school year.

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By Jenny Chen

To accommodate this year’s remote instruction, the administration has released a revised school-wide grading framework that students and staff will be operating with for the school year.

The framework is divided into three main categories: summative assessments, homework/preparation, and classwork/participation. Summative assessments, which include projects, tests, and presentations, make up a maximum of 70 percent of a student’s grade. Homework/preparation, such as written homework, assigned reading, and contributing to Google Classroom, make up a minimum of 15 percent of a student’s grade. Classwork/participation, which includes participating or completing work during live instruction, make up a minimum of 15 percent of a student’s grade as well. Departments and teachers may determine their own grading breakdown following the criteria laid out in the framework.

In addition, teachers must accept late projects and give make-up tests, in which penalty points for lateness will be detracted from the homework/preparation section rather than the summative assessments section. Traditionally, teachers were allowed to give students reduced credit for a late project or a missed test. “We want to see what the student knows and has learned […] to be able to give feedback and/or evaluate that work,” Principal Seung Yu said.

The framework was implemented with consultation from the School Leadership Team to strengthen both remote and in-school learning experiences. “We wanted to think a lot about what that experience might look like for students who are remote and then, if by chance, we were going to be back to school in the school building, what would be the expectations for our school both from the standpoint of teachers as well as with students,” Yu said.

The administration created a grading framework in hopes of streamlining the new academic year with more consistency and fairness for both students and teachers. “Stuyvesant High School never had a [school-wide] grading framework. We had department grading policies. The school leadership group felt that it was important to provide the students, parents, and teachers with a clear picture of how grades would (and should) be determined (especially in a time when we are engaged in a mix of blended and remote learning),” Assistant Principal of Chemistry, Physics, and Technology Scott Thomas said in an e-mail interview. “The new grading framework captures the commonalities across the school by highlighting the three main grading categories used by all departments.”

Moreover, the new framework aims to provide a structure for school-wide grading policies. “[The Assistant Principals and I] took a look at the various grading policies across departments and within courses. Ultimately, what we were able to examine was that there were [not only a lot] of similarities, but also inconsistencies in respect to language and how we are using certain terminology as well as percentages,” Yu said.

With the initial draft of the grading framework released to teachers, many had voiced concerns regarding both the softening of the lateness policy as well as the vague wording within the framework. With its release, many teachers had signed a letter questioning the new policy on lateness. “Colleges, scholarships, and jobs usually have so many applicants and have such a hard time struggling to pick that absolutely cutting off at a due time is standard practice. If we are reducing late penalties, is it doing our students any good to train them that lateness isn't a big deal, if that lesson will come to bite them on something much more important than a class paper?” social studies teacher Dr. Zachary Berman said in an e-mail interview.

Language within the framework made it unclear as to whether the timeliness of homework and major assignments would be weighed differently. “I do see a potential problem in figuring out how much to weigh preparedness in terms of daily assignments like homework against timeliness of major assessments. If a homework counts as much as an essay in terms of preparedness, there are likely to be consequences that we don't intend,” English teacher Mark Henderson said.

The controversy surrounding the lateness policy had also highlighted the difficulty in balancing freedom in teaching with uniformity for students. “When teachers feel free to teach as they want to teach, and that includes grading, they feel more inspired, and students feel that inspiration and learn more. There are schools where teachers have to read from scripts, where they are told exactly which words to say when they teach. That's an extreme example, but it shows how too much administrative control over teaching kills teaching. On the other hand, it's frustrating for students to have to understand radically different grading systems, and it feels unfair to them that their colleagues with different teachers are being graded very differently,” Dr. Berman said.

To address these concerns, the administration revised the grading framework to clarify aspects of the policy’s wording. “One of the primary reasons [for the revisions] was to make the distinction between routine daily assignments (classwork, homework, nightly reading, etc.) and summative assessments (tests, projects, papers, etc.) clear to anyone reading the policy. The initial language allowed for too much confusion, and people had questions about what we meant when we used less specific terms like assignments and assessments,” Assistant Principal of Mathematics Eric Smith said in an e-mail interview.

Though the grading framework allows students to submit work that would otherwise not be accepted after its due date, students are still expected to turn in assignments in a timely manner. “The aspect of the policy that I know has proven most controversial for some teachers is the late work policy. I want to make clear that this doesn't mean that there's no deadlines. There are, and students are still expected to meet them,” Assistant Principal of English Eric Grossman said in an e-mail interview. “But there's a huge difference between ‘deadlines’ and ‘penalties.’ Teachers meet deadlines every day without fear of immediate punishment. And when we miss a deadline, as we occasionally do, we almost always get an additional opportunity to submit missing work […] it feels reasonable to me to extend just a little bit of that flexibility and understanding to our students, especially now.”

With the overall grading framework, Henderson supports its distinction between the quality and timeliness of assessments. “I really like the idea of separating out a grade for the quality of a piece of writing from the timeliness of a piece of writing. Both matter, but I think the quality matters more,” Henderson said. “We don't remember Voltaire or Shakespeare because they were really good at turning things in on time—the quality makes their writing stick. That said, Shakespeare never would have lasted if he couldn't finish his scripts in time for performances. Timeliness does matter.”

Others believe the breakdown will be a more holistic way to evaluate student work and effort. “I think this change is healthy for the students, since the positive work they put into class discussions and homework will weigh more into their grades than before. I'm not too concerned about my students not taking my exams as serious because well, they will still take my exams seriously,” math teacher David Peng said in an e-mail interview.

The administration hopes that with the release of this new framework, students will have a more transparent guideline for how they will be evaluated this year. “We want to make sure that students are still maintaining high expectations, meaning that when summative assessments are due or need to be completed, students complete it on time. They take [assessments] when it's going to be assigned and make sure that they're constantly communicating with their teachers if there are extenuating circumstances or issues that arise that would prevent them from committing on time and/or taking that exam/assessment on that specific day,” Yu said.