West Des Moines Community Schools administers a variety of assessments to provide students, parents, and staff members with performance information.
Such information is used for:
- identifying how and when to provide differentiated instruction.
- monitoring student growth over time.
- determining the extent to which students are meeting district and state standards.
- providing data to help improve the curriculum and instruction.
- assisting with the creation of staff goals.
- assisting with the development of district and building goals.
- analyzing trends at the state and national level. How does WDMCS compare?
- providing high school students information for making post-secondary educational and vocational decisions.
Effective Grading Practices
We are committed to and are making strides toward improving our grading practices to ensure all students’ grades are a true picture of what they know and are able to do in each course.
The purpose of grading is to communicate achievement relative to course standards to students and parents.
Iowa Core & Grades
The Iowa Core, mandated by Iowa Code, provides clear and rigorous expectations or standards. Some courses such as Advanced Placement courses or DMACC courses also provide rigorous expectations with course competencies or objectives. Systems that are aligned – curriculum, teaching, and assessment – will yield greater success for students. A guide was developed for each grade level kindergarten through grade 8 and one for high school students. Guides include a brief overview of what will be learned in each subject area of the Iowa Core, examples of what your student’s work at school may look like, and and examples of how you can help your student at home.
We want students to demonstrate understanding at a specified level of proficiency. Criterion-referenced grades are used to distribute grades related to content standards and learning targets. Criterion-referenced assessment informs how well students are performing on specific standards rather than sharing performance compared to a norm group of students.
Achievement & Behavior Reported Separately
Achievement grades should be determined based on individual achievement of the content standards (or equivalent standards) and learning targets. Students should not be penalized for requiring more time, resources, or support to demonstrate proficiency of a standard. Effort, participation, attitude and other essential life skills should not be included in grades but should be incorporated into learning with feedback for growth.
Essential Life Skills
Each of these life skills are integral in helping students succeed. These attributes are developed in students to help them become more effective learners. However, a student’s grade is not determined based on whether or not they are meeting these life skills.
- Continuous Learning – Thoughtfully considers feedback and works toward accomplishing goals.
- Collaboration – Interacts to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams to accomplish a common goal or task.
- Communication – Conveys ideas and information respectfully, purposefully, and effectively through multiple means.
- Critical Thinking – Accesses and analyzes key information to develop, create, or innovate solutions to complex challenges.
- Professionalism – Demonstrates learner readiness through self-regulation, responsibility, and integrity.
Video: Kevin Atterberg, Essential Life Skills
Zeros and Missing Work
If a student has a late submission of assessment evidence, teachers will mark it as an “M” for missing and calculate it as a failing score of 50% (50% is a symbolic percentage consistent with a 10-point differential between other grades on a 100-point scale). Once the assessment evidence is completed, the mark will be updated and will represent achievement of the content standards and learning targets.
In order to complete a course, students are required to submit evidence of learning. Due to the structure of reporting periods and opportunities to earn credit, there will need to be cut-off periods. If a student has not submitted critical evidence of learning related to priority standards and/or competencies, they may receive an “I” for incomplete for the course and risk the potential of not earning credit for the course if the evidence isn’t submitted.
Cheating and plagiarism will not be accepted. Students violating academic honesty will lead to parent communication, disciplinary consequences, and re-teaching of expected behaviors and use of resources. Students will be required to redo assessment evidence under supervision to gain an accurate evaluation of learning related to content standards.
Video: Fix 12: Avoiding the Zero
The term “quality assessments” includes a variety of methods to evaluate student learning. For example, a state assessment is given once a year and provides a snapshot of achievement. In contrast, day-to-day monitoring of learning using intentional tools and practices provides timely feedback to both students and parents/guardians.
In the WDMCS, we use quality assessments as an integral part of instruction. Assessments provide evidence of student learning aligned to targets and standards. They inform teachers, students, and parents around growth and progress toward or beyond learning targets and standards.
Balanced Assessment System
The WDMCS Balanced Assessment System provides a visual to support conversations and actions related to the intended use of a variety of assessment tools or evidences of student learning.
View Balanced Assessment Chart
Student Involvement and Self-Assessment
It is important for students to become reflective learners who are able to self-assess and set goals for themselves. Students learn at different rates and require multiple opportunities to practice skills, revise thinking, demonstrate their learning, and track their progress. These opportunities should be a part of the continued learning happening daily in class.
Students will engage in learning opportunities within class and/or out of class to receive additional instruction, practice and/or feedback to improve learning. Students will need to then demonstrate new learning. With this practice, there will be no need for extra credit. In order to complete a course, students are required to submit evidence of learning.
Grading Practices Audio Conversation
Listen to two WDMCS administrators discuss our commitment toward improving our grading practices to ensure all students’ grades are a true picture of what they know and are able to do in each course.
Questions for Students
These open-ended questions can help parents/guardians start a conversation with their student to learn about what they are learning and how they are growing.
What are you learning about?
What interests you most in your learning?
What are ways you get to demonstrate your learning?
What are ways you are learning in your classes?
What connections can you make between the Essential Life Skills and your success in learning?
How are you able to monitor your growth toward a learning target or standard?
In what ways are you able to learn about and/or practice the Essential Life Skills throughout your day?
How are you able to set goals for yourself as a learner?
How do you know you are successful in your classes?
How are you able to have new learning replace old learning through reteaching, practices and reassessment?
How are you demonstrating the Essential Life Skills?
How does this work connect to your other classes / learning?
Questions for Teachers
These questions can help parents or students engage in positive dialogue with their teachers related to effective grading practices.
What are key concepts and learning my student needs to demonstrate?
What learning opportunities will my student have to demonstrate growth towards and beyond a standard or learning target?
How is my student learning and practicing the Essential Life Skills in class? What does he/she need to practice more?
What opportunities will my student have to take ownership of their learning?
How is my student able to demonstrate learning and growth over time in this course?
How can I use your feedback to better my understanding of the material?
What goals do you have for student learning?