An urban school creates a grading system that reflects understanding—and that doesn't penalize students for practicing along the way.
Confronted with a 55 percent failure rate in Algebra I, the teachers at Health Sciences High and Middle College (HSHMC) in San Diego, California, knew they needed to do something differently.
As is typical of many high schools, grades at the school were based on an amalgam of homework, classroom behavior, quizzes, projects, and tests. Some students were failing because they didn't complete the homework, some because of poor attendance, and others because of low test scores. In discussing what actions to take, one teacher admitted, "We really don't know why most of them are failing. In fact, a whole group of them may actually understand the content but have compliance issues. We just don't know any other way to grade." That admission proved to be the turning point for developing a rigorous yet responsive grading system that measures student understanding of the content standards.