Recently, the Deerfield 9/10 Committee—a task force focused on shaping an academic approach more appropriate for ninth and tenth graders, particularly the former— proposed a rubric-based grade for all incoming freshmen. In other words, the Class of 2018 did not receive numerical midterm grades this fall. This change was made by the committee in order to instill the six different qualities that the Academy wants a student to focus on: disciplined work habits, class participation, grit and resilience, curiosity, initiative and independence, and creativity.
“Once we decided what the qualities were, we thought about, one, how can we let the students know that these are the qualities the school wants them to develop, and two, how can we give feedback so that they are more likely to do it?” Academic Dean Peter Warsaw said.
Instead of the usual midterm grade, the freshman class was given a rubric that incorporated four out of the six qualities. Students were given a number on a scale from one to five based on disciplined work habits (includes annotation, arriving on time, and taking notes), class participation, grit and resilience, and curiosity shown during class. This rubric allowed faculty to give students directed feedback, so they could see exactly where they were excelling or falling short of expectations.
“The rubric-based grade was especially helpful during parent-teacher conferences, because it allowed to me to show the parents what exactly their child was doing in class,” science teacher Eric Calhoun said. “The numeric grade didn’t really mean anything and didn’t give much information.”
The midterm grades consisted of two different components; the rubric replaced effort grades, and the indications Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, or Falls Short of Expectations replaced course grade.
“Receiving a more abstract type of grade really helped me adjust to the new environment that I was suddenly placed into,” Ashley Chang ’18 stated. “The rubric-based [evaluation] eases the transition by giving us a chance to adapt [to] the challenges that Deerfield poses without having the constant burden of schoolwork behind our back.”
“The rubric puts less emphasis on number and gives less school-related stress to the freshmen,” Claire Zhang ’18 added.
However, not all the members of the community believe the new system is beneficial.
“I don’t like it, because teachers have graded students based on words,” Anna Scott ’18 explained. “There’s no in between 4 and 5, so it’s hard to tell how I’m doing in the class.”
“I think that the intentions of this idea are good. Freshmen don’t have to worry about the stress of grades, and it gives them time to transition into a new school,” Jenna Greenbaum ’17 added. “However, it’s not as helpful in the sense that by not having a numerical grade for midterm, the students don’t know what to improve on, which is the main reason we have mid-terms.”
The intention of assigning rubric-based grades for the first half of the fall term was to encourage students to focus on desirable qualities as they transition into a new school year. Although the freshmen will start receiving numerical grades beginning at the end of fall term, the rubric will be continued throughout the whole year in hopes that students will focus on the rubric even when they receive numerical grades.