What Makes an 8 an 8?: An MYP Grading Primer

by Amelie Rehbein

It’s been eight weeks since school started, and as sophomore Taylor B. says, it’s been a “MYPtastic beginning of a school year.” Coming fresh off a week of break, students are getting back their grades for the many summative that were due shortly before the break. For some subjects, the grades that are given for these test, projects, papers, and presentations will be the first grades in PowerSchool and so some students might wonder: What do the grades we are receiving actually mean?

Sung Hyun closely examining the MYP Language and Literature Criteria in a very natural and un-staged fashion. Photo by Amelie Rehbein.

The MYP (the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme) grading system, which was introduced this year, uses a grading scale from 1-8 and criteria corresponding to each standard.

According to ASW MYP Coordinator Ms. Swanson, the grading system is student-centred, based on growth, and “about knowing why you are at the level you are and trying to figure out with yourself and your teacher how you can grow to where you want to go.”  

The MYP assessment is set up so that all students have the opportunity to get to the highest bands and that is why teachers often articulate how important is it to look at the rubric. The rubric for each criterion is divided into levels of achievement, each of which has descriptions of what is necessary to earn that grade. As the level increases, the level descriptors become more detailed and demanding.

The Middle School Office and MYP Command Centre. Photo by Amelie Rehbein.

One thing that Ms. Swanson would like students specifically to understand is that the numbers act merely as symbols for the level descriptors. This means that when getting back a rubric, students should first look not at the numbers, but at the level descriptors, because those comments that the teachers highlight on your rubric will help you understand why you have received the achievement level that was given to you.

As Ms. Swanson is also a science teacher, she has experience in using the level descriptors and says that “command terms are very important. For example, in science the command terms state, outline, describe and explain, differentiate a 1 from an 8.”

One question that many students have been talking about this year is what the newly introduced 8 represents. Is an 8 equivalent to a 7 last year, or is an 8 simply just another number in the grading scale? As many students have learned, although you can receive an 8 during the year, the maximum grade that can be found on the report card at the end of the year is a 7.

Photo by Amelie Rehbein.

The method used by teachers to determine one’s final grade on the report card is commonly misunderstood between students. Many think that teachers take the grade from each criterion, add them up, and then divide them by four – therefore getting the mean . However, this is wide of the mark.

The actual process is more well-thought through and more accurate. Teachers will add up all the best sustained performance level from each criterion, getting a sum total of, for example, 22. Then they look at a tablewhich has each grade (such as a 6 and 7) corresponding with a boundary guideline (such as 24-27 and 28-32). Hence, the sum total 22 would fall in the boundary guidelines of 19-23, therefore indicating that the student would receive an overall grade of a 5 on that subject area. Of course teachers also consider improvement throughout the year and any other factors that could affect the final sum total when deciding on final report card grades.

Although there are parts of the MYP grading system that differ slightly from the grading system used in previous years, it is a system that helps students better achieve their goals and lets them understand more about their learning.

As Yoojin L. (10) said, “It is very important for students to understand how we are being graded so that we can talk to teachers about our work and how to get towards the place we want to be.”

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