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Students show concern over mastery scale grading system

Moody Family
School board members listen as Claire Moody addresses them Monday evening.

Monday evening, sophomore Claire Moody passionately spoke at the Board of Education meeting about students’ irritation with mastery scale grading. 

Mastery scale grading is a redesign of the traditional letter grade system highlighting the ability to “master” skills rather than get an A+ on an assignment. This new method is currently being implemented in all freshman and sophomore core courses at Hayes and most junior and senior courses with the eventual goal of all classes transitioning to this system. 

Sophomore English and Hayes Cinematics teacher Tom Hering has implemented mastery grading in all of his courses. 

“None of the mastery scales are the new skills we have suddenly introduced,” Hering said. “We have always had scales hidden behind our assignments, but they were just built into our rubrics for essays and projects. Now we are putting those skills in the foreground and teaching the skill rather than an assignment.”

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However, Moody has had a less-than-ideal experience with the new system.

“I have to memorize the answers because there are no assignments teaching us the topics and I had no feeling of achievement for my grade anymore,” Moody said. “I just memorize it, pass my test, and then forget what I memorized and get ready to memorize a whole new set of answers off of my notes.”

After the frustrations of first quarter, Moody decided to create an online petition calling for an end to mastery scale grading. In under a month, the petition has gained almost 800 signatures with students also sharing their frustration with the mastery grading system, including Senior Kylie McCann.

“When mastery scales came here to Hayes, I started struggling with math for the first time in my life,” McCann said. “It sucked because my motivation for math kind of went downhill after that. I’m a good student but suddenly I got one question wrong, and suddenly my grade was a D.” 

Students left comments under the petition writing “I was very close to not graduating with the class of 2023 due to this grading system in chemistry” and “This system adds a whole new level of stress to schoolwork. I have had more tests and less time to do them than normal tests. This system does not reflect what we know therefore the grade is inaccurate.” 

While students feel frustrated with the new policy, teachers want to focus on the positives. 

“We have students going out into the college and they will come back and tell us they got A’s in their high school math courses but were struggling in their college math courses,” Hering said. “There was a disconnect between what the letter grades meant and what skills were mastered. Now with mastery scales, students can go into the world knowing what skills they are good at rather than a letter grade.”

Student school board representative Eric Gitson is also a strong advocate for the new system, agreeing with the administration’s decision.

“With any new initiative, there will be some growing pains, but the early data is promising and I am optimistic that our students, parents, and teachers will work together to find the best learning strategies,” Gitson said.

As Moody’s petition gained prominence, she was able to meet with Assistant Principal Rex Reeder and Principal Ric Stranges about the issues she saw with the system. However, the conversation did not go according to plan.

“They did take some notes but it felt more like a conversation of just them trying to get me to shut up on social media about it,” Moody said. 

Moody is not the only student who has felt unheard by the administration. 

“I feel as if sometimes the students’ complaints and concerns are very overlooked because we are all young,” McCann said. “I feel as if our administration and school board don’t care. There doesn’t seem to be a line of communication anymore.”

However, students should not allow themselves to go unheard. Gitson urges students to not give up hope on advocating for issues that they are passionate about and an upcoming opportunity to be able to show support for them. 

“I think that there are a lot of Hayes students who are interested in having their voices heard on this issue and I think that’s great,” Gitson said. “ I would encourage productive conversations with the administration. Students can come in during lunch on Friday to talk to Stranges personally to help him get a better idea about how this is affecting students and what he can do about it. ”

However, currently, there does not seem to be a middle ground between Moody and the administration as Hayes moves towards full mastery scale implementation.   

This story was originally published on Hayes Talisman on November 9, 2023.