Kodiak students adapt to new grading system

Kodiak High School. (Photo by Kayla Desroches / KMXT)

Mitch Borden/KMXT

For the past five years, the amount of A’s given out to Kodiak high schoolers have been on the rise, but the increase can’t completely be credited to student’s hard work.

Kodiak Island Borough School District used a grading system that inflated its high marks. But earlier this school year, that system was replaced with a more traditional way of grading.

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A few years ago, something unexpected happened at Kodiak High School – more than 50 percent of the grades given out were A’s, but:

“We didn’t have a corresponding jump in our SAT scores or statewide testing scores.”

Dr. Mel Levan is the principal of Kodiak High School. He says the reason for the spike in good grades was something called “Standards-Based Grading.” That’s a system where grades are calculated on a four-point scale – one being a low grade and four being outstanding.

The system also brought changes like homework wasn’t scored, and students had unlimited chances to retake tests. It was supposed to help students master subjects, but instead, Levan says, it caused some grade inflation

“Most students know when they are given a grade that reflects their learning.”

And, that wasn’t always the case. So, Levan says, the district switched back to the 0 to 100 grading scale in its middle and high schools. The change happened earlier this year. Levan says it was a hard transition, but it improved the attitude of students, like Joycie Garchitorena.

“It was hard at first because it was something that I had to get used to, then over time I got used to it a little bit and it just made me work harder.”

Garchitorena is a sophomore at Kodiak High School. she’s seen a dramatic drop in her GPA since the switch, but she says that makes her want to do better.

“It made me realize I do need to focus on school more and I really need to focus and work hard when I’m doing my work, taking my tests. Actually, pay attention and stuff.”

High school biology teacher Kinsey Allen says her students didn’t always pay attention to their work before the change, but now she’s seeing students work harder.

“My biggest thing I try to teach students, and I think they are going to learn it this year, is resiliency and the fact that they just can’t give up.”

Allen says by setting the bar higher the district’s better-preparing students for their futures.

“In my classroom, I’m really big about celebrating successes and I really feel like now, you know, when I celebrate those it’s like genuine. A kid goes from having a D in my class to a B +, like yeah I’m going to celebrate that because clearly, he had to do a lot of work to get there.”

Since the district enacted the 0 to 100 grading scale, grades are back around where they were before “Standards-Based Grading” was implemented according to Principal Levan. At Kodiak High School, A’s now make up around 36 percent of the grades given to students.

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