OPS Begins Fourth Grading System in Four Years

With classes starting in the Omaha Public Schools today, a new grading system takes place. It is based in research that brings the district more "in line with national standards".

But it's a little different system of grading than most of us are used to and the fourth grading system used by OPS over the last four years.

Most of us are familiar with the percentage grading scale, but research shows numbers are not accurate in determining if a student truly grasps a concept.

That's why nationally there's a move to a scale that looks more like a grade point average. OPS Director of Secondary Education Susan Christopherson says research indicates that teachers can better determine the strengths and weaknesses of a student in a given course.

"Which helps to work on the mastery of the student," she said. "So we're actually giving them very specific feedback on what it takes to get to that advanced level of work, so we're really trying to provide more specific feedback to students to achieve at their highest level."

Most parents have seen a chart that specifically outlines important concepts and the student's ability to grasp the information. Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum at Westside School District Sue Evanich says it's a method of evaluation many educators prefer.

"Because you've identified the focus or the target very clearly and that's going to be the standard and then you are going to assess students on that standard," she said' "So you're not going to have 100 points in which multiple standards are measured and all deemed to be equally as important, which they aren't and then put a mathematical formula to it and then arbitrarily say it belongs their on the grade scale."

Critics claim the new system of evaluation makes it difficult for students when they start looking to go to college.

Pelena Morrice, Vice Chancellor of Enrollment at UNO, says that's not the case.

"We take a look at their grades," he said. "But we also take a look at student's individual courses that they're taking the quality and the rigor of those courses and all those things used in the evaluation so from a student perspective not much should change at all."

Grading by percentages has another drawback --- it eliminates roughly 70 percent of a score from passing grade consideration.

That can give students a sense of hopelessness on I'm proving their overall grade and may contribute to higher dropout figures.

This new "holistic methodology" allows for teachers to pinpoint where students are struggling and to then team with parents to help a student improve their understanding of their school work.

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