Changes to the Janesville School District’s grading policy mean students will no longer be able to ignore their homework and still get an A.

In what Janesville School District officials are calling “minor changes,” high schools students grades will continue to depend primarily on how well they do on tests. But students who want to retake exams or turn homework in late now have less time to do so.

They also get no points for work not turned in.

The Janesville School District went to “standards-based” grading in the 2016-17 school year. The idea of standards-based grading is that a student’s grade should be based on what the student knows, not his or her behavior, class participation or homework. Knowledge is what matters, supporters said.

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Others, including parents and some teachers, argued homework and class participation were part of the work habits that prepared students for college and the workforce. Students are not allowed to retake tests or turn work in late in college, they pointed out.

Since standards-based practices went into effect, Craig and Parker leaders have made adjustments to the system each year, Parker High School Principal Chris Laue wrote in an email The Gazette.

The latest round of changes are “based on direct feedback from staff and anecdotal feedback from students and parents,” the email reads.

Under the old system:

  • Students’ grades were based 90% on testing and 10% on homework and other, in-class work. The lowest score students could receive, even if they didn’t turn in their work, was a 50, not a zero. Students quickly discovered that because the lowest score they could receive was a 50, homework counted for only 5% of their grades. The range for an A was 92 to 100.
  • No extra credit was allowed.
  • Students could retake tests and turn in homework late.

Under the evolving system:

  • Students still can redo exams, but they are allowed only five school days after tests are returned to retake them.

“We recognize that not all students master skills at the same rate,” Laue wrote. “We continue to allow them to do retakes or redos to show mastery of their learning”

  • Students can turn in homework late, but the timeline and penalties have changed. They now have only two days to turn in work without a penalty.

In the past, work that was not turned in was worth 50 points out of 100. That was lowered to 40 points out of 100. Now, work that is not turned in is not worth anything.

“When students do not turn their work in, the teacher codes it as “M” (missing) in the online grade book,” Laue wrote in an email. “No points are awarded until the student turns in the work. If the student chooses to never turn in the work, they would not get points.”

Teachers often reach out to parents if work is not turned in, Laue wrote.

“…This will continue to be the practice to make sure students stay on track,” Laue wrote.

Laue and other district officials have said standards-based grading is being adopted by more schools and is supported as a “research-based practice.”

In a February 2018 issue of The School Administrator, the magazine for the American Association of School Superintendents, Drake University Professor Tom Buckmiller wrote that university admissions directors expressed “general approval” of the system.

“They shared their frustrations with rampant grade inflation, inaccurate portrayals of student performance, the regular need for remediation once students were enrolled and widely varying grading systems from one school district to the next,” Buckmiller wrote.

A standards-based grading system does away with many of those issues, according to the article.

However, a study published in 2017 in the Journal of Research in Education, shows “GPAs remained unchanged and ACT scores may be negatively impacted” when high schools use standards-based grading. The same study also noted that “ traditional grading practices were a small factor combined with GPA in predicting ACT scores.”