The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

The History and Reality of Poly Prep Grading Policies


Imagine it is 1916, around 3:35 p.m., and a young boy embarks on a long walk home from a day of learning in order to be able to work on his family farm. There are cows to milk and crops to tend to, and this responsibility rested squarely on this 7th grader’s shoulders. The curriculum included agriculture, textile skills, and the economics of the “developing” world economy we could never recognize. Now, move to today. It is 2024, and around 3:35, a Poly Prep student just arrived back from his bus ride home. His mom knows he is home because of the tracker on his iPhone, and he orders a snack with Uber Eats before using his Chromebook to edit his writing assignment. The world has clearly changed, but the American education system still adheres to standards set for the boy on the farm. 

Like many schools, Poly Prep adhered to this outdated system for many years. However, things are changing with the help of Michal Hershkovitz, who stepped into her role as the assistant head of school, academics in 2019. Hershkovitz has since been working within the Poly administration to reimagine Poly grading policies and systems. She introduced Poly to equitable grading: a new, modernized approach to grading pioneered by Joe Feldman, author of “Grading for Equity.”

Since 2019, Poly has experienced major change in its grading policies, as the school made a unified effort towards adopting equitable practices. While Poly is committed to updating their grading policies, two major questions remain. First, how exactly have the Poly Prep grading policies changed over time? And second, are the new Poly Prep grading policies sustainable? 


Equitable Grading 

Joe Feldman is, by many accounts, the United States’ leading expert on equitable grading. When asked about his intentions behind writing and publishing “Grading for Equity” in 2018, Feldman explained, “We continue to use the same grading practices that we’ve used for the past 100 years…and our continued use of those now actually undermines effective teaching and learning.” Feldman hopes to reimagine grading in the United States so that it aligns with a modernizing world. 

Feldman describes equitable grading as “grading in ways that are more accurate,” as well as, “bias-resistant.” Feldman establishes the three pillars of equitable grading as: accuracy, bias-resistance, and motivation. “Grading for Equity” explores exactly how to achieve equitable grading, including a shift to rubric-based grading, the exclusion of homework from a grade, late work policies, and the extermination of extra-credit. Hershkovitz had found a text that supported her vision of equitable grading at Poly. 

Reflecting on the need for equitable grading, Hershkovitz said, “Grades need to be motivational. They need to be bias-resistant…It exposes that what we’ve been doing for a long time might not actually serve our students.”

In 2019, teachers and administrators at Poly were given a simple task: to read “Grading for Equity.However, what does an effort at “equitable grading” look like at Poly?


How Grading at Poly Has Changed 

Hershkovitz was previously the history department chair. “She really started conversations with the department chairs about our grading practices,” explained Head of Upper School Sarah Bates. “[Hershkovitz] questioned: What is extra credit for? What is the late policy for? What exactly are we evaluating?” 

Hershkovitz’s time in her new role was interrupted in March of 2020 by the pandemic. Covid brought unprecedented challenges to the education system: generational challenges that were never faced before.

Schools reacted in different ways. A large majority of universities across the United States adopted “flexible grading.” According to the National Library for Medicine, “Flexible grading included giving the students the option to maintain their earned letter grades in the course, opt for a pass/no-pass course grade, or withdraw from the course.” 

Poly’s primary solution, however, was to instill a floor grade. “Wherever anyone was on March 10 when Covid hit and we shut down, you couldn’t get below that grade for the year,” explained Bates, “It was because we recognized that so many students were experiencing Covid in really, really different ways.”

While Covid brought unprecedented challenges, it also sped along the conversations surrounding grading that were already happening within Poly administration. “Since we could literally and figuratively see into one another’s homes, it brought forth this idea of equity in different practices that we have,” said Bates. 

For example, extra credit was eliminated during this time. “What it neglects to see, and what Feldman’s work helped us see, was that if a student doesn’t fulfill an extra credit assignment, it might be because she has other responsibilities,” explained Hershkovitz. In “Grading for Equity,” Feldman writes, “Extra credit tells students that learning is a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ game where you select how to get the points you need to get the grade you want.”

Also as a result of Covid, the grading system changed from a semester grade to a rolling grade, which doesn’t lock until the end of the school year. Hershkovitz and administration also decided that homework would no longer be graded, just assigned. Instead, students would be graded according to a summative assessment at the end of the unit. 

During this time, Poly administration also eliminated the late work penalty. According to previous reporting from senior Lilly Belford in the 2021-2022 school year, Bates said “the Poly Administration, department chairs, and teachers are no longer deducting late points, but ‘they are accounting for it in other ways.’” 

A 2021-2022 Grade nine history course description states, “Late submissions on assessments will not be penalized. Late submissions and incomplete work will be reported to your dean, any athletic coaches, and guardians.” Here, handing in assignments on time is an expectation, yet no “late points” are deducted when not handed in on time.

Bates believes that not deducting points if a student turns in work late is “the wrong message to send.” She explained, “Students are particularly prone to anxiety or perfectionism or some things that can really mess with your head. Not having a firm deadline was not helping those students at all.” 

Peter Nowakoski, who has been chair of the English department since 2018, agreed: “So it was not working.” He continued, “We found a lot of students falling behind and not being able to get themselves out of that situation.” Nowakoski also added that it made it hard for teachers to move along and begin new units. “For students who struggle with time management, it was harmful,” said Hershkovitz. 

This late work policy was clearly in need of some repair as Poly entered a post-covid world. In 2022, Poly launched a new initiative: faculty working groups. These working groups represent a unified effort to have faculty and student representation in policy-making areas. 

In 2022, Hershkovitz sent out a Google form to rally teachers interested in joining faculty working groups. In this form, the possible working groups were listed as: Grading Mission Statement/Philosophy, Student Accountability, Homework: Purpose and Policies, Curricular Visions for Equity and Justice, Social-Emotional Wellness, The Experience of Our Female-Identifying Students, Multidisciplinary Initiatives/Curricula, and Community Events/Assemblies. These working groups met once a month, where Hershkovitz is the head chair.  

“It was from those grading working group recommendations that we tweaked the original policy and came up with the grading templates that the departments now have,” said Hershkovitz. 

In a tenth grade 2022-2023 history syllabus, ten percent of the student’s grade is credited to “habits of scholarship,” which is a rubric comprising two parts; part one is planning and preparation and part two is engagement and scholarship. Part one includes “timeliness.” The date by which a student submits their work only impacts a rubric grade, instead of having a clear guideline of deducting points. The 2022-2023 History Department’s overall grading policy said that the policy is intended to ensure grades are “accurate, bias-resistant, and motivational,” referencing Feldman’s “three pillars of equitable grading.” 


What is the current (2023-2024) Grading Policy

The 2023-2024 Poly late work policy is now as follows: “If at the end of the marking period, a student has not submitted all necessary assignments, a teacher may enter an Incomplete (INC) on the report card. Students have one week after the due date of an assignment to turn in outstanding work; if they fail to do so within that time frame, a failing grade will be entered into the gradebook and their grade will be calculated accordingly.” 

According to the Poly website, “Individual departments will determine their own grading policies, including re-dos, make-ups, and post-deadline submissions. Faculty will have slightly varied approaches to grading that will be grounded in their department’s policies to maintain equity.” 

The department policies are as follows, according to each 2023-2024 department’s syllabus: 

MATH: “Students have one week after the due date to reach out to their teacher to let them know when they will be able to submit their late project. If students fail to communicate with their teacher regarding the late project, they must attend the next scheduled mandatory study hall to complete their work. After eight days the maximum grade a student can earn drops to a C-. Then, students have up to one more week until the maximum grade drops to 50 percent.”

SCIENCES: “Students are given one calendar week past the official due date without any grade penalty. After one calendar school week, students will have ten percent of the value of the assignment deducted. After one week beyond the ‘grace period,’ students will receive a 50 percent on the assignment.”

HISTORY: “Students will receive a one-week grace period after a graded summative assignment is due with no repercussions. After the grace period has passed, if an assessment has not been completed and submitted appropriately (as determined by the teacher), the student will receive a one percent grade penalty on the assessment per calendar day.”

ENGLISH: “After seven calendar days, the grade will stand as a ‘Not Turned In’ and the student will not receive credit for the assignment. For major assignments whose grades make up the majority of a student’s final grade, after seven days, late work will be penalized at the rate of a full grade per day after the deadline. Grades on such assignments may not drop below 50 percent of the total possible value.”

COMPUTER SCIENCE: “Computer science has a ‘late policy progression.’ When the assignment is one minute late, deans and parents are notified and the student is assigned to mandatory study hall; One week late: point loss begins, two percent per calendar day; two weeks late: dean and parents are notified; three weeks late: final grade of 50 entered (assignment must still be submitted).”

LANGUAGE: “If a student hands in a graded assignment within one week of the deadline, no grade penalty will be applied, but an email will be sent to the student’s dean shortly after the deadline. On the eighth day past the deadline, the grade will be capped at a C-. If work is not handed in before two weeks past the deadline, the student will receive a 50 percent. Additionally, oral presentations and graded speaking activities must be done on the day that they are assigned. Should a student cut class for a presentation, as with a cut test or quiz, their grade will be an automatic 50.”

Another effort towards developing equitable grading practices is the use of rubrics. While this is a concept that is definitely still in the works, it remains at the forefront of Hershkovitz’s efforts to make Poly grading more equitable. “I hope you see more and more rubrics as part of your assessments. I do. That is an outgrowth of this movement,” said Hershkovitz. In “Grading for Equity,” Feldman similarly claims that “rubrics and proficiency scales create more transparency about what a grade requires of a student.”

Hershkovitz described the process of changing policies as a collaborative experience. “We solicit and invite a lot of voices before we make changes,” she explained. 


Response to change

Junior Drew Waldman, who is on the Poly Prep varsity girls lacrosse team while also heavily involved in Poly musical programs, explained, “[The new grading policies] allow me the extra time I need to be able to excel in two things that I love, lacrosse and theater, while also being able to maintain my grades. It is the perfect medium.”

Leila Ross, a sophomore transfer from Dalton, agrees. Ross has no issue with the late work policy and finds that it does not have a large impact on her work schedule. Ross, however, explained, “At Dalton, what I like better is that they post the grades to our online student portal.” 

When asked about her insight regarding student response to the new grading/late work policies, Upper School Dean Perri Meeks explained, “I think most [students] have responded by turning their assignments in closer to when they’re actually due, which I think is helpful.” 

Celia Camara, a ninth grader at Poly Prep, commented on her experience transitioning from Poly Middle School to Poly Upper School in terms of this policy: “The one-week grace period is a perfect amount of time.” She continued, “We’re all in high school so I don’t see why freshmen would have a different policy.”

Emily Gardiner, Poly Prep upper school dean department chair, said that her students have expressed little to no controversy about this week’s late period. Instead, she said that, as the Poly community turned to a post-pandemic era, she heard more feedback from family friends and faculty about how the previous month’s late work policy created “a very mushy understanding of time management.” Regarding the new, late work policy, Gardiner commented, “This new, less enormous lateness grace period, I think, feels welcome in our community.” 


Going Forward

Poly grading policies have undergone very significant changes over the years, from the unprecedented impacts of Covid to the new approach to equitable grading. As student feedback rolls in, how will these policies continue to evolve?

When asked about his prediction for the future of this policy, Nowakoski explained, “We learned over the course of a couple of years that [the late work policy] needed to be changed. I think the same thing will happen.” Nowakoski described the current late work policy as a “compromise” and predicts further conversation among department heads that could provoke change. However, Bates noted, “I think [the current grading/late work policies] will be maintained now, going forward.”

If history has shown us anything, it is that the future of Poly Prep grading policies is unpredictable. Covid pushed Poly into a time where it was forced to consider how the pandemic affected learning and students. If Poly administration holds strong to its commitment to equitable grading, policies will continue to change along a changing world. Equity, in this way, is the adjustment of imbalance. 

“The goal of our grading policy is to give you the best feedback in the most appropriate amount of time. And we’re still, like with everything else, making our way there,” Hershkovitz said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Lucia Zaremba
Lucia Zaremba, Online Managing Editor and Social Media Manager
Lucia Zaremba is the current Online Managing Editor and Social Media Manager of the Polygon. Lucia joined the Polygon family her freshman year as a staff writer. The Polygon was the first club she joined as a new student at Poly Prep, and it will certainly remain on her resume throughout her time her. Lucia is also a member of the softball team, a Blue Key ambassador, Deputy Video Editor of the Morning Devil, Submissions Gatherer of the Poly Records, and a member of the Student Service Board. In her free time she enjoys hanging out with her family and friends and trying new food. She looks forward to her third year on the Polygon in a new and exciting role!

Comments (0)

All The Polygon: The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *