Chippewa going gradeless? District says not so fast

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published September 10, 2021

 An August Facebook post showed a screenshot indicating that a number of Chippewa Valley High School teachers are going “gradeless.” The district said a small group of teachers are doing away with participation type activities and points and focusing on core work.

An August Facebook post showed a screenshot indicating that a number of Chippewa Valley High School teachers are going “gradeless.” The district said a small group of teachers are doing away with participation type activities and points and focusing on core work.

File photo by Alex Szwarc

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — A recent social media post sparked some confusion about grading policies at Chippewa Valley Schools.

An Aug. 24 Facebook post on the Macomb Township Voices! page showed a screenshot indicating that a number of Chippewa Valley High School teachers are going “gradeless.”

Going gradeless provides instruction and assessment without including letter grades and points.

The same day the post was made, Diane Blain, Chippewa Valley Schools director of school and community relations, said she hadn’t heard anything about it.

“I think it is safe to say that Chippewa Valley High School is not going gradeless,” she said. “Students will still receive an ending grade.”

The screenshot message states that students receive feedback from their teacher about what they are doing well and how they can improve.

On Facebook, Kelly Sarver, who teaches at Dakota High School, said going gradeless is not a school or district-wide plan.

“This is a few teachers trying out a new strategy to mitigate stress and emphasize learning and growth at one school,” she said. “As educators, we do this kind of stuff often. We are constantly learning and researching and utilizing new tactics.”

Blain further clarified the district’s stance, noting that all students will receive a course grade and end of the semester grade, as well as receiving a GPA.

“None of that changes,” she said. “It shouldn’t be called ‘gradeless’. It really is a small group of teachers doing away with participation type activities and points and focusing on the core work. The important work. This is something they have always done which contributes to student success.”

Sarver said at the end of each grading period, the quarter and semester, students will receive a standard letter grade. That grade will be factored into the GPA.

Tom Sokol, of Macomb Township, commented on the post.

“I think it is better to teach kids about homework at this age and hold them accountable to it,” he said. “I just don’t agree with this ‘non-mandatory homework.’ I can see this carrying over into the workplace. It will become optional to work too.”

Tracey VanHuylenbrouck, a parent in the district, said her eighth grader needs to work at school, but grades motivate him to keep trying.

“We don’t expect As, but without that goal post, he’d just sit back and say ‘whatever, I’ll do the minimum’” she wrote.

Kim Johnston, a teacher at Chippewa Valley High School, said at the end of each grading period, the quarter and semester, students will still receive a standard letter grade. The grade will be factored into the GPA.

She said the term “gradeless” is troublesome and technically doesn’t fully apply to what some Chippewa Valley High School teachers are doing.

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