Monday, November 26, 2012

Standards Based Grading: A conversation with admissions

Michael Barron Interview November 5, 2012
Assistant provost for enrollment management and director of admissions:  
I had the pleasure of visiting with Michael Barron at the University of Iowa Admissions Office.  We talked about our new assessment system and I asked him some questions about the college admissions process.  Mr. Barron spoke about the limited contact between K-12 and post-secondary institutions and how that relationship can be improved through conversations such as ours.  Italicized below are my notes summarizing the conversation. 
What is the reason for using the RAI (Regents Admission Index) for college admission?
The RAI index is a formulaic value comprised of standardized test scores (ACT, SAT), grade point average, class rank, and the number of courses taken in core curricular areas.   Michael was on the committee with the Board of Regents that adopted the use of the index.  It was noted through research on the committee that class rank and GPA, “added statistical value that we could not ignore” and therefore were included in the RAI.
How does the admissions process work for schools like Solon that does not use class rank?
We have “100 systems” of grading variance in any given year when we look at transcripts from high schools.  “When one is missing, the RAI is not used.  Instead, our staff reviews the academic record using a more holistic approach.  “We want to look at the whole child”. 
How familiar are you with standards based grading and assessment?
I was invited to Muscatine where they were discussing competency-based education.  However, most of my colleagues “do not know about competency-based education or the K-12 movement to common core standards.” 
I gave Mr. Barron and update on standards based grading at Solon High School.  What are your thoughts about our assessment system?
I see “no cause for alarm”.  We too are trying to use a more “holistic admission process.”  I also explained our reason for taking homework out of the grade.  “I don’t see a problem with that.”  He continued to say that as long as there is not a statistical increase or decrease in the distribution of grades, then our assessment system should not affect the admissions process. 
What is the best way for us (K-12) to communicate this to post-secondary institutions?
He suggested we look at a “profile” to send with our transcripts.  Colleges would benefit from some explanation/description of the change, describe the process, and characterize the methods of assessment for calculating grades.  Ultimately, post-secondary institutions would like to know that “you have removed variables that inflate grades.  We trust the grades from your high school represent learning.”

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