Grade Precision: PowerTeacher Pro & Calculating Grades

Matthew Haas, Ed.D.Greetings, Teachers:

I am writing to advise you of a central decision regarding how the PowerTeacher Pro gradebook will calculate grades. This decision was based on an operating principle for ACPS that we will have fair and equitable grading practices.

With the introduction of the PowerTeacher Pro gradebook, PowerSchool has moved the control of rounding/truncation and rounding precision from the teacher level to the school level. Previously, teachers were able to individually decide whether to round or truncate grades and to what precision grades should be rounded. As you can imagine, this created a scenario where two students taking the same course in the same or different schools could earn the same number grade and a different letter grade.

In consultation with the Superintendent’s Cabinet, I am taking this as an opportunity to incorporate this decision into an ongoing review of current grading practices. After a discussion of how various approaches might benefit students and families and a review of current teacher practices, I decided that we will adopt a common approach across the division for the upcoming school year.

  • Calculated grades will be set to round to the nearest whole number (zero decimal places).
  • The gradebook will still allow the entry of assignment grades with decimal values (e.g., a quiz where the student earned 27.5 points out of 30), and it will use any entered decimal places in grade calculations, but when a calculated grade is shown to parents and students as a percentage, only the rounded whole number will be displayed.

This was the practice of 9 out of 10 teachers during the 2016-17 school year. All elementary school teachers who assigned letter grades used the gradebook in this way during 2016-17. Since there was some variance at the secondary level, I called secondary principals to discuss the matter before drafting this communication.

I expect teachers and administrators to have ongoing conversations about grading and feedback practices, as they impact fairness and equity for students. The student experience in ACPS should have a base of a guaranteed and viable curriculum, assessment system, and instructional program. From that baseline of equal treatment, we should differentiate in the student’s best interests and in favor of encouragement and growth.

We encourage teachers to include the precision of grade calculations in their PLC discussions. The decision to round to zero decimal places will be reevaluated among other topics as part of our study of grading practices to ensure that we are providing the best outcome for students.

I thank you for being champions of fairness for students.

Matt Haas
Deputy Superintendent