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Reimagining High School Grading

A multi-pronged, inclusive approach to solving acute and persistent grading challenges


The sudden shift to remote learning during the pandemic resulted in high failure rates across the country. Without the ability to easily or accurately assess many aspects of a traditional grade (including attendance, participation, and most importantly, learning) students across the country found themselves failing at record levels. Like most districts, Renton School District sought solutions to the problem that would lower the potential impact on students. However, it also saw an opportunity to solve deeper problems with grading that existed before the pandemic that led to inequities in the district. In response, the district invited staff and students to help problem-solve.


District leaders at Renton outlined the challenges with the existing grading system:

  • Inconsistent grading practices

  • A focus on compliance and completion instead of mastery and meaningful engagement

  • Inconsistent and one-way communication about student progress with students and families

Working with the high school principals and administrators, district leaders created two problem-solving paths, named “systemic” and “reimagining.”

The systemic path sought to identify and make recommendations for short-term changes to practices and policies in the district, in hopes of quickly mitigating against the high failure rates students were facing. To surface solutions, a committee was established with high school teachers and administrators.

The reimagining path sought to identify and pilot longer-term solutions to deeper problems with inequitable grading. Rather than follow more traditional decision-making processes, the reimagining path used the Real-Time Redesign process to leverage inclusive design thinking, whereby students and teachers co-design and pilot solutions on a small scale.

This strategy is a part of TLA's Hop, Skip, Leapfrog release, which explores the concrete ways in which schools and systems pursued student-centered innovation during COVID-19. Explore the full guide to find additional strategies, insights, and resources.

Strategy Resources

Reimagining High School Grading at Renton Public Schools

This video of Bob Ettinger, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Renton School District... Learn More