No grading system is perfect. Grades are an attempt to quantify and measure a student's progress or scholastic ability in a given subject. Education consists of many variables. At MCA we strive to reflect what we believe to be the most important dimensions of learning and aptitude as accurately as possible in our grading system.
The Upper School’s approach to grading has three distinctive characteristics from more conventional grading methods. These characteristics are Mastery, Revisions, and Project/Participation Grades.
Most schools require 70% or more to pass a course. MCA does not follow these typical pass/fail models. MCA adheres to what is best described as a Mastery/Non-Mastery model. In order to attain Mastery a student must achieve no less than an 85% overall grade for each class. This seems like a high standard because it is. We expect our students to not merely get by in a subject, but to proficiently understand it. We desire greatness for our students. Given a fair opportunity, students generally rise or sag to the level of expectations. If standards are high, students will work to achieve them. If they are low, students will put forth minimum effort. An integral part of an MCA education education is training to students to be excellent.
One of the best ways we learn is from our mistakes. The revision policy at MCA allows students to take advantage of this learning opportunity and correct their mistakes on most project grades. For every 1 point corrected, the student receives .7 points back for their assignment. These revision values are substantial enough to incentivize reviewing and correcting mistakes, but not so high that it devalues effort during the initial work. From an institutional standpoint revisions are not mandatory. If a student is going to do revisions, he must decide to do it. The grade provides the feedback, the tutor the opportunity, but as with so much at MCA the student has the freedom to take ownership of their education.
In order for learning to take place, (which is the transcendent goal of revisions) tutors put in place some sort of deadline for which they can be turned in. The more time separates the initial work from the revision the less likely it will be that learning occurs. For this reason MCA encourages students to turn in revisions quickly.
Ultimately revisions serve three purposes: they make the 85 standard more attainable, they provide students an opportunity to learn from their mistakes, and they build character into the student. Oftentimes revision work is where the most lasting learning takes place.
Grades at MCA are divided into two basic categories: Project and Participation.
Project and Participation grades are weighted differently at different stages in the student's career. In 7th and 8th Grade project grades count for more, allowing students an adjustment period to adapt to the logic and rhetoric based classes.
Project grades measure the student’s performance on traditional types of assignments. Project grades consist of the material work that students turn in (i.e. tests, papers, quizzes, homework assignments, projects, etc.) But while project grades to a degree quantify the knowledge or skills acquired in a particular course, its scope does not consider the extent to which the student’s mind was engaged in the class. MCA believes an engaged mind is essential to authentic learning.
Participation grades evaluate and score students on their level of engagement in the learning process. They measure important but less tangible aspects of the student’s education – such as their preparedness for class, their attitude, their respect for their tutor and peers, and their willingness to consider and share ideas during class among other things. In essence, participation grades measure the student’s character and effort within a given class. Participation grades play a particularly vital role within Classical Education and the Socratic Method. Because our classes are discussion based, they heavily rely on the students to willingly participate by sharing their ideas, asking questions of their own, and courteously listening to others. If a student is unwilling to participate, they not only deprive themselves, but also do a disservice to other members of the class who stand to benefit from their input.
While tutors vary in their expectations to suit the needs of each class, all participation grades are entered weekly and consist of a score of 10 points per hour of class.
Participation grades are measured along the following scale:
0-5 serious problems are occurring
6-8 needs improvement