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SSPPS Takes Another Step in Implementing IB Criteria District Wide
South St. Paul Schools is making a change to become more aligned with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program. IB programs focus on the whole child, challenging them to excel in their studies and in their personal development. SSP Middle School students will no longer be graded on an A-F grading scale. Instead the district is moving forward with report cards reflecting our Middle Years Program (MYP). The new grading system helps families, teachers, and students understand where they are on both personal development and academic scales.
What Makes IB Different
One thing that sets an IB district apart from other districts is the ‘approaches to learning’ skills. This teaches students how to learn by helping them develop their research, thinking, communication, social and self-management skills. The MYP focuses heavily on approaches to learning which makes the new grading system essential. Instead of receiving a letter grade on their skills they are given an evaluation of: exceeds, meets, partially meets, or does not meet expectations.
“We’re an IB School District,” says IB-MYP Curriculum Coordinator, Melissa Miller, “It makes sense that we would grade our students according to the IB grading scale.” In the past students received an MYP grade, but the teachers were translating it to the A-F letter scale. Miller says, “This gives us a much more accurate look at where students are in their learning. The expectations are more clear and they have a better understanding of how they can get to the next level.”
Why Make the Switch Now?
Parents and families are asking, why are we making the switch now? Miller says, “It’s been a long time in the making and we didn’t want to wait any longer.” The Middle School began the transition to the new grading scale a couple years ago, but it had to be put on hold for other changes at the school. Miller says, “When you become an International Baccalaureate Program district-wide you aren’t expected to implement every change right away. Every five years the school is evaluated to see how we’re building on the program. This was the next step in our progress.”
The new grading scale is based solely on academic factors. All grades are standards-based and focus on the student’s demonstration of skills related to the subject. It looks at the most recent consistent performance and doesn’t rely on averages. Meaning if a student shows growth over the course of a trimester, their scores at the beginning of the class may not necessarily impact their overall grade at the end.
State and National Standards
Another question families have asked is how does this new grading method meet state and national standards if their kids aren’t receiving traditional grades. All MYP curriculum and assessments are designed to align with Minnesota state standards and benchmarks in each subject. Middle School Principal, Leah Bourg says, “Overall the new assessments tell us more about a student’s strengths and areas for growth. This helps us ask better questions to make sure they’re understanding the subject in front of them. We’ll know early on where they excel and where they could use more help and we can align the lessons to meet the student’s needs.”
Students will continue to be honored when they reach high levels of achievement and growth. We are still designing what those ceremonies and processes will look like.
The new scale reflects the mastery of objectives and standards. Bourg says, “One thing that has helped put the numbers into perspective is reminding them that 5-6 is at grade level. Some feedback that I’ve received is that a four is right in the middle so that must be failing, but really a four is good. We can tell those families and students more specifically what they need to do to move their number up to that 5-6 range.”
The first MYP scale report cards were sent to parents in December. So far Bourg and Miller say it has been well received. “Teachers have been asking for this change,” says Miller, “We’re excited to have finally made the switch.”
More Information on the Middle Years Program
For more information on the middle years program visit the SSP middle school webpage.