Reimagining a More Equitable Grading System at North-Grand High

Nicole Luke is the Assistant Principal (AP) of North-Grand High School and a proud CPS alumna from the south side of Chicago. This experience motivates her leadership to place student voices at the forefront.

As schools across the country, COVID-19 placed a particular strain on students at North Grand HS. When her students struggled across grade levels during the 2022-21 school year, AP Luke knew that many of the failing grades were due to student disengagement. As a result, AP Luke and her leadership team developed a schoolwide survey to better understand students’ experiences during the pandemic and their attitudes towards grades. The results were clear: students felt overwhelmed and disconnected from their classes.

Currently, teachers at North-Grand grade students use a 100-point grading scale and have very different grading styles. This variance makes it hard to see what skills students have or have not mastered. AP Luke wanted teachers to have the space to critically examine the type of assignments presented to students along with how feedback and grading could be used as a tool of empowerment for students versus simply accumulating points. This would also give students multiple ways of demonstrating their understanding and mastery of the material.

As a participant in The Fund’s Summer Design Program, AP Luke used a design thinking approach to reconsider how North-Grand could make grading more meaningful to students and teachers after months of remote learning. Since 2013, the Summer Design Program has provided educators with the time, space, and resources to create innovative solutions to school-based, student-centered challenges. 

At the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, AP Luke shared the schoolwide data with teachers and underscored areas for improvement and how grading exposed inequities in student learning. She engaged the Grading for Equity PLC around discovering better alternatives for their grading practices.

Understanding the relationship between grading practices and inequity has helped teachers at North-Grand to rethink their approach to understanding how students are learning. Educators can better see where students are excelling or where they might need additional support. Students can better demonstrate their understanding of the material, and stay more connected in the process. 

By getting clear data on the problem, leveraging leadership through her educator team, and keeping students at the center of the work, AP Luke is leading North-Grand in reimagining a more equitable future.  

Promising Practice

“Design thinking is not a linear process. It takes time, patience, sense-making, learning, and reflection by everyone involved, especially the person leading the work.” 

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