Academics

COMPETENCIES AND GRADING


WHAT ARE COMPETENCIES?

Competencies are the essential skills, topics, and ideas that a course will focus on throughout the school year. Over the past year, the faculty at Merrimack Valley Middle School developed individual course competencies that reflect:

  • The most central, essential skills which a student must demonstrate to assess current knowledge.
  • Academic ideas /themes / skills that a student should demonstrate to be adequately prepared for future courses.
  • Common expectations for all courses including the rigor of assessments.
  • New Hampshire Common Core Standards and the NH Curriculum Frameworks.

A complete list of the courses and their competencies can be found here. Please note that while the competencies are finalized, some of the summative assessments listed are subject to change depending on pacing of the course. The competency areas are clearly established for each class. For example, English Language Arts (ELA) classes have identified the following competencies: Reading; Writing; Language; Speaking/Viewing/Listening. These areas represent the major content topics and skills that will be investigated and practiced in this particular course. All assignments within this course will fall under one or more of these competencies.

WHY ARE WE USING COMPETENCIES?

The middle school has chosen to identify specific competency areas for each course in order to better inform our learners and parents of student performance. Competencies give a more detailed analysis of students’ specific strengths and weaknesses within each course. This allows teachers to differentiate instruction to meet individual needs and challenge students appropriately. The implementation of competencies also helps align our school to MVHS grading practices, aiding in the transition between middle and high school.

HOW ARE COMPETENCY GRADES DETERMINED?

The overall average of the “body of evidence” in each competency area (homework, quizzes, tests, writing assignments, projects, etc.) will determine each competency average. Every assignment will carry a maximum point value that a student can earn. Within each competency area, certain assignments will weigh heavier (summative assessments are worth more points than homework). For example, a unit exam (summative) may be worth 100 points, while a homework (formative) may only be worth 10 points. The total point value of all assignments within a competency area is the “body of evidence” which will translate into a numerical average. Summative assessments may carry points in multiple competency areas, as these are assessing multiple areas.

FORMATIVE AND SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENTS

Formative assessments monitor students’ learning as they progress through a given topic. These assessments will carry a lower point value, but are very important to the learning process as they demonstrate how a student is understanding a topic. Examples of formative assessments are homework, classwork, and quizzes.

The goal of a summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit. These assignments are given less frequently, but will carry a higher point value. Examples of summative assessments are research projects, presentations, labs, essays, and exams.

GRADE PORTAL (ALMA)

Parents and students alike are expected to regularly check their Alma portal to stay apprised of assignments and grades. Each student’s Alma login will be given to him or her within the first two weeks of school. If you do not know the login information or are having trouble logging in, please contact the office. If you have any questions on how to utilize the grade portal, please contact administration. This is an incredibly powerful and useful tool to help bridge the gap between school and home. We strongly encourage students and parents to be active on their portal, and communicate with their teachers as necessary.

GRADING

The move to competency-based grading will allow teachers and parents a more accurate picture of student performance. Competency-based grading combines the skill based grading concepts of standards-based grading with the numerical clarity of traditional grading practices. Point values will be translated to a numerical average based on a 100-point scale. See the letter conversion table for how these percentages correlate to grades.