What Does the Future English Department’s “Grading” System Look Like?


Photo by Aja Schiller

A class’ grade requirements that has been used at Fairview high school


Schools use a standardized grading system to judge their student’s work, and a student’s GPA (grade point average) is considered by colleges, which can determine a student’s acceptance. Recently, the AHS English department visited Fairview High School in Fairview, Colorado to observe their teaching and grading methods. Instead of assigning grades to work, some of the teachers at Fairview believe students will be more motivated to do unique work if it is all be compiled into a portfolio/body of work and at the end of the semester, the student and the teacher will sit down and discuss what grade they think the student has earned.

The AHS English department believes implementing a similar alternative grading system will be a solution for students who struggle with anxiety and will encourage students to take more risks with their writing.

Eric Roberts, a computer science professor at Stanford University, admits that there is an “oversupply” of student honor code violations. A philosophy professor, Debra Satz, discovered that students have taken material from online sources when writing papers for her class. Anxiety and stress over grades often cause students to cheat on exams and homework which leads to honor code violations. Violations can lead to teachers not recommending students to a college, poor grades, and bad marks on their permanent record.

“The system is still coming together. What works for Fairview may not work for us, so although we have been inspired by Fairview, we need to find our own way and what works best for us,” AHS English teacher, Adam O’Bryan, said. The teachers at Fairview believe that students are not taking risks, and so in their gradebooks, the grade there is the amount of work a student has completed. A parent can check in and see if their kid is keeping up with work. Then, the teacher will add comments in the grade and at the end of the semester, the class will discuss what an A-level grade looks like.

O’Bryan is all for the new system because it focuses on growth and individualized evaluation compared to standardization.

“I should note that every student is different so there is no one-size-fits-all for a complete paper,” O’Bryan added.

Teachers would make a point to get to know the students as writers and not just as students. The English department hopes that “point-grubbing” can be eliminated, for the most part, and students will become more focused on growing as students rather than grades.

“The benefits of changing the system will be more authentic learning, rather than learning for a number,” AHS English teacher, Stephanie Drake, said. “Additionally, the system is more transparent and will hopefully create better, clearer conversations about learning and growth with each student and all parents.”

“It’s going to happen. The teachers in our (English) department are incredibly talented, and bright, and creative,” O’Bryan said. “I am positive that we can find a way to make this work. If it doesn’t work, at least we tried. One of the most significant inhibitors to change is fear of failure,”