Hannibal Public Schools vote to discontinue Standards-Based Grading at middle school

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From left, Hannibal School Board Members Jeff Evans, Scott Hawes and Tysa Coleman discuss Standards-Based Grading at the regular meeting Wednesday night. Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. – The Hannibal Middle School will revert to the traditional grading system starting the 2024-25 school year.

The Hannibal School Board voted Wednesday night at the regular board meeting to discontinue Standards-Based Grading (SBG) at the end of the school year. 

There will be no changes made to the grading systems at the five elementary schools, where each building principal decides whether to implement SBD at their building. 

(To learn more about Standards-Based Grading see this Muddy River News article from Sept. 23, 2023 “Standard-based grading adopted by some Hannibal public schools, pros and cons discussed at recent board meetings”)

This year Hannibal Middle School and Stowell Elementary implemented SBG for all subjects and grade levels. All Hannibal elementary schools are using SBG in at least one grade level. Hannibal High School is the only district school that does not use SBG at all. 

The decision comes after last month’s meeting when the board members tabled a motion made by board member Jeff Evans to eliminate SBG from third grade up and return to traditional grading by the start of the 24-25 school year.

Before voting, several board members requested time to look at the survey results that were sent out to district families’ and teachers about SBG. Included in last month’s agenda packet were the survey results that included more than 250 family responses and 95 teacher responses.

On Wednesday the board members returned ready to discuss the matter.

Board Member Stacy Graves was concerned that suddenly taking away SBD could cause more stress to teachers who have not taught under any other grading system. Graves suggested they continue to allow each building principal of the five elementary schools make the decision about SBG–including fourth and fifth grades.

“I think our administrators and our teachers are fabulous, and they’re very in tune with the teachers. And I think that it would be wise of us to let that be their decision,” she said.

She also suggested a transition year for the teachers who have only taught with the SBG grading system.

“I think if we do it cold turkey it would put such an imposition on the teachers that have been using Standards-Based and like using it,” she said. “Why would we do that to our people?”

Graves told the board that after researching SBG and listening to feedback, she believes the grading system is perfectly suited for elementary school students.

Shawn Brown, assistant superintendent at Hannibal Public School District, doesn’t believe in dragging out the switch from SBG to traditional grading.

“I can’t get behind a transition year unless you’re going to define specifically what a transition year looks like,” he said. “I say if you’re going to make the change, you make the change. That’s just my personal opinion.”

Evans brought up the survey results.

“When you look at those, about 80 percent of the parents from that survey were opposed to Standards-Based Grading and support traditional grading,” he said. “About 85% of the teachers who are opposed to standard based grading and wanting to transition back to the traditional grading.”

Evans said he views SBG as similar to communism, which he believes is good in theory but not in practice. He said the 1-4 grading scale–which rarely awards fours–might cause students to not to excel as they could. 

“The biggest issue that I see with it is that almost nobody gets a four so the highly motivated students who can pass those assessments without even studying, aren’t motivated to work because they know they are going to get a three,” he said. 

Brown said his personal experience seems to show that parents of elementary students do not have an issue with Standards-Based Grading.

“After five years on this job, I have had zero calls from a parent about Standards-Based Grading,” he said.

Susan Johnson, superintendent of Hannibal Public Schools, was pleased a decision was made.

“I’m glad that we have a final direction on what the board approved for us today. I totally trust our teachers and I trust them as professionals that they are,” she said. “Regardless of what form of communication they use to communicate with parents about how their children are doing, they are going to do a phenomenal job.”

The Hannibal Public School District also conducted a Climate and Culture Survey in December. There were 333 parents, 205 teachers and staff members, and 867 students who responded. 

  • 96% strongly agreed or agreed that all school staff members are aware of safety and security procedures.
  • 94% strongly agreed or agreed that there is a teacher, counselor, or other staff member to whom a student can go for help with a school problem.
  • 93% strongly agreed or agreed that families are encouraged to attend school-sponsored activities, such as back to school night.
  • 70% strongly agreed or agreed that bullying is not tolerated.
  • 70% strongly agreed or agreed that discipline is enforced fairly.
  • 70% strongly agreed or agreed that HPS students are treated fairly regardless of their race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or disabilities.

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