Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
72° Rockville, MD
The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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Kaylah Goldrich
Due dates may be a thing of the past as work will not be penalized for being late.

This year, the high school administration is implementing new grading policies in an effort to make the grading evaluations more equitable for students. 

The administration established four new grading practices for all departments to follow. Students are allowed to retake any major assessments; teachers must provide a rubric for major assignments; students must not be given a grade lower than 50%; and students are not penalized for submitting assignments late, as long as it is submitted within four weeks of the due date. 

“We like to think of it [the four new grading practices] as a new opportunity for students to really show their learning because the goal is not for them to penalize students, but really to give them opportunities to learn,” High School Principal and Upper School Campus Head Lisa Vardi said. 

The faculty has been learning about, and in some cases practicing, equitable grading since last year. The faculty-wide reading for the summer of 2022 was the book “Grading For Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, And How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms” by Joe Feldman. In the book, Feldman writes that “the ways we grade disproportionately favor students with privilege and harm students with less privilege,” leading educational institutions to perpetuate opportunity gaps in the classroom. 

English teacher Nancy Wassner views the new grading practices positively.

“We have had an issue in this school where the culture around grades is frankly toxic,” Wassner said. “Students view grades as payment for work. That’s not an appropriate system because it doesn’t actually assess students’ learning or ability, it assesses how much they work.”

Establishing a new mindset, culture and policies around grading means students “would take ownership and responsibility over their learning, would be intrinsically motivated to succeed, and would be excited about learning and their own progress,” Feldman says in his book. 

Beyond the four key grading practices, departments have the freedom to structure grading expectations and rules. For example, in the history department, Document-Based Questions, or DBQ, assignments can be redone to focus on specific missed criteria and learning goals, history teacher Natalie Levitan explained. For math classeses, the math department decided that grades on homework will no longer contribute to a student’s overall grade.  

While the administration has high hopes for the new grading system, big changes can be hard to adapt to. Many teachers feel unsure about this policy, and because of this, eight teachers declined to comment on this article, which is unusual. 

“There are lots of pieces of the new grading system,” math teacher John Watkins-Chow said. “Some parts of it make sense and seem reasonable; other parts of it I’m not a super fan of.” 

Watkins-Chow said he worries this policy might backfire on procrastinators, and that although it will give teachers less to grade in the short term, it might do the opposite in the long run. 

“In some ways, I’ll have less work day to day; I won’t be collecting homework and seeing that it’s been done,” Watkins-Chow said. “In some ways, it will potentially increase my workload if I have many students who are retaking tests and assessments, and there could be more students who want to retake who will have more conferencing with me.”

Some parents have also expressed apprehension about the new structure. Parent Debbie Shemony shared her concerns on the junior parent group chat and agreed to share her comments with The Lion’s Tale.

“When you roll out a change like this, it really can’t (and shouldn’t) be done without explanation or standardization across the board,” Shemony wrote. 

Shemony, along with many other parents, feel the changes were sudden and uncalled for, causing an uproar. Along with this, many parents believe there should be a standard grading procedure in all their students’ classes, rather than different policies in each department. 

The administration has planned a parent meeting to discuss the issue on Sept. 22. Vardi noted that the issue will also be written about in an upcoming issue of The Lion’s Roar, the school’s weekly announcement publication.

Although student reactions have been mixed, several students have connected to the ideas and philosophy that define Grading for Learning. Junior Boaz Dauber noted how “it allows you to have off days where you can not do your best and not have any lasting impact.” 

Meanwhile, other students have raised concerns over the potential damaging effect it will have on their procrastinative behavior. 

“When you can take as much time as you need to turn in assignments, it gets rid of the incentive to do things on time,” freshman Liana Lesser said.

Considering this has been a jarring change for some of the community, Wassner noted the positive change she believes the policies will bring to the classroom and school. 

“Teachers are really doing a lot of work here to create more opportunities for student success and to create more opportunities for students to earn the grades they deserve,” Wassner said. “It feels really scary, but it is the right thing, and you don’t start doing the right thing by not doing it …  I’m really hopeful that students can give faculty the benefit of the doubt, ask us questions, allow us to explain rationale because we really are actually trying to do this for you all.”

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About the Contributors
Stella Muzin
Stella Muzin, Editor-in-Chief
Stella Muzin is eager to continue her work on Lion’s Tale as Editor-in-Chief after previously serving as Arts and Entertainment Editor. She's excited to continue designing spreads, editing articles and working with the rest of the staff. Outside of the newspaper, Stella is on the JDS Debate team and Swim team and is the president of the Political Discussion Club. In Stella’s free time you can find her binging reality TV or spending time with her family and friends. She's looking forward to a year of growth and improvement for the Lion’s Tale and can’t wait to be a part of it.  
Kaylah Goldrich
Kaylah Goldrich, Editor-in-Chief
Kaylah Goldrich is so excited to continue her work on Lion’s Tale as Editor-in-Chief after previously serving as the Sports Editor. She enjoys writing and editing articles and loves designing spreads for the monthly print edition. Outside of the newspaper, Kaylah is a proud co-captain of the debate team and a player on the varsity soccer and softball teams. She spends her free time being a diehard Yankees fan and can always be found watching a sports game. Kaylah is very excited to take on this new role and cannot wait to work with the new editors and reporters.

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