Dear Wagner Families,


Welcome back to a new school year! As we continue our work together as an educational community, we would like to share some important updates to our grading policy for this school year as we shift from a traditional grading system to a mastery based grading system. In a traditional grading system, a teacher will combine scores on a variety of elements to come up with a grade, such as test scores, homework, quizzes and classroom participation. In a mastery based grading system, each of those elements are viewed and rated separately with the lens of mastery of outcomes (attached), which allows the teachers and the parents to identify specific areas where the child might need help, and then each of the elements is combined to determine an overall grade. These ratings are reviewed at the end of each semester to determine a numerical grade for your child’s course. Please note that terms described here will be defined below in this letter.


We will share information about this shift with you via this letter, our attached grading policy, and through family information sessions over the next few weeks. In the upcoming week during advisory we will be sharing with your children some information about our shift from traditional grading to a mastery based grading.


Below you will find an overview of Mastery Based Grading, as well as an FAQ document for students.


We will continue this work throughout the year with your children as topics come up. We will be holding information sessions for families over the next few weeks. If you have further questions, feel free to attend one of our family information sessions via zoom below. Although we will tailor the presentations to the needs of each grade, do feel free to attend another grade level if you cannot make the date of your grade.


6th Grade: Tuesday, October 20th at 7 pm 7th Grade: Thursday, October 15th at 7pm 8th Grade: Tuesday, October 27th at 7 pm

Join Zoom Meeting (same link for all meetings):
Meeting ID: 865 7404 9947                                                              
Passcode: 424474


Before the presentations, please be sure to complete this form to share any questions that you may have.


Please be sure to check in with your child about whether or not they understand the new grading policy after the advisory presentations. If you have further questions you may submit them via the form above or reach out to our assistant principals of instruction, Ms. Delaney ( and Ms. Oakes (



Jennifer Rehn Losquadro

Why Mastery Based Grading? Why now?


The best practices for teaching and learning have evolved in our school community over time. Most grading policies in the city continue to act as sorting systems for students that are compliant and know the unwritten rules of “doing school.” Much of the time, grading for teachers focuses on checking if a student did a task or not, entering those grades, and following up on parent communication regarding what a grade means. We want to shift the focus to providing feedback on learning to students with transparency from the outset. Our grading policy should provide all students with knowledge about how they are performing and what they need to do to master the important learning necessary to have success.


After much consideration of our goals of equity and feedback in our school community, we have determined that it is time to shift our grading policy to include a mastery-based grading system. In a mastery-based learning environment, students progress by demonstrating mastery of standards-based learning outcomes. Learning goals are transparent and feedback focuses on next steps to achieve and deepen mastery of skills and content over time.


At Wagner we have already been working towards a mastery-based grading system for the past several years in the following ways:

  1. For school years 2018-19 and 2019-20, implementing a standards-aligned grading system with school wide categories.
    1. Providing specific, actionable feedback to students based on shared standards and tasks.
    2. Developing standards-aligned rubrics for tasks.
    3. Considering ways that our grading policy and instruction can be more equitable for all students.
    4. Considering the disproportionate negative impact that our prior grading policy, especially during remote learning, can have on our most vulnerable students.


What is Mastery-Based Grading?

Mastery-based grading practices follow these principles:

  • Standards Based Learning Outcomes are shared and transparent from the beginning of learning.
  • Grading is based on student mastery of the Standards-Based Learning Outcomes.

○      The grading looks holistically at student mastery of each outcome, rather than performance on a specific task.

○      The classroom discourse focuses on mastery of learning rather than missing assignments and numerical grades. For example, a child does not earn a 73 on the test, they receive feedback on their mastery of each learning outcome assessed by the test.

  • Teachers provide a variety of learning opportunities for students to submit as evidence of mastering learning outcomes.


Definition of Terms:

 MASTERY-BASED GRADING- In Wagner’s mastery-based learning environment, students progress by demonstrating mastery of Standards-Based Outcomes. Learning goals are transparent and feedback focuses on next steps to achieve and deepen mastery of skills and content over time.

 STANDARDS-BASED OUTCOMES: Standards-Based Outcomes are content-specific standards or groups of standards which are revisited across the semester and/or year. They are not contained within a single task or unit. Standards-Based Outcomes are composed of transfer skills and understandings, meaning that they can be transferred from one learning opportunity to another within and often across units.


 LEARNING OPPORTUNITY- A learning opportunity is an assessment, assignment or task that is assessed by the teacher using the rating system and allows students to demonstrate their mastery toward a

Standards-Based Outcome. Examples include but are not limited to: a test or quiz, an essay, a project, exit slip, student-teacher conference. Learning opportunities completed by a student provide the teacher with evidence for the rating. Students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their proficiency and/or growth toward proficiency for each Standards-Based Outcome through a variety of learning opportunities throughout the semester or year.


 RATING - The term used for the “grade” students receive on individual Learning Opportunities (ES, MS, AS, NY, NO). These are described below. If a Learning Opportunity assesses more than one Standards-Based Outcome, students will receive a separate rating for each Outcome.


 OVERALL RATING- The student’s holistic performance for each Standards-Based Outcome at the end of the Semester, that will be combined and converted into a numerical grade.


Standards-Based Outcome Rating


Exceeding Standard (ES)

Student has exceeded the expectation for the Standards-Based Outcome as determined by the rubric.

Meeting Standard (MS)

Student has met the expectation for the Standards-Based Outcome as determined by the rubric.

Approaching Standard (AS)

Student shows some evidence of meeting the expectation for the Standards-Based Outcome as determined by the rubric.

Not Yet Approaching Standard (NY)

Student has not approached the expectation for the Standards-Based Outcome as determined by the rubric.

No Evidence (NO)

Student did not attempt the work to demonstrate mastery of the Standards-Based Outcome.


Our current grading system, IO Classroom (PupilPath), has the functionality to provide feedback to families on student performance against standards’ based outcomes. In PupilPath, students and families will see the rating (ES, MS, AS, NY, NO) for each Learning Opportunity, rather than numeric grades.


Report Cards

  • At the conclusion of the first semester, a semester grade for each subject is determined by calculating the overall rating for each Standard-Based Outcomes over the course of the semester.
  • At the conclusion of each year, a final grade for each subject is determined by calculating the overall rating for each Standard-Based Outcomes over the course of the year. The final grade is not an average of the two semesters, but a culmination of the year’s work, as students will continue to work towards these outcomes throughout the year.


Numerical Equivalents for Overall Ratings

The following Numerical Equivalency Scale is used to determine the numerical equivalent of the Overall Rating for each Standards-Based Outcome:


Standards-Based Outcome Overall Rating

(rubric and iO classroom)

Grade Equivalent (for calculating final grade)

Exceeding Standard (ES)


Meeting Standard (MS)


Approaching Standard (AS)


Not Yet Approaching Standard (NY)


No Evidence (NO)


Frequently Asked Questions


Why are we changing our grading policy?

This policy more accurately communicates what you know and are able to do in each of your classes. Rather than getting a number, you will be able to say more specifically which Outcomes you are mastering and which Outcomes you are still working on. So when you think about the work that you are completing in your classes, you will more specifically know what you are working on and your progress.


What is a Learning Opportunity?

A Learning Opportunity is similar to a standards aligned assignment or assessment that you may have completed in previous years. It is a way to demonstrate what you know and are able to do connected to specific Standards-Based Outcomes.


What are the Outcomes for each subject?

The teachers of each subject have decided on Outcomes that are consistent for the semester or in some cases for the whole year. They are based on the national, state, and local standards You teachers will be sharing these with you soon. You may have already seen them.


What will my grade be on a Learning Opportunity?

Each Learning Opportunity will be used for one or more Outcomes. Each Outcome will be given a rating based on a rubric. For any Learning Opportunity, you will know if you are not yet, approaching, meeting or exceeding the standard for that Outcome.


How will this grading policy affect my high school prospects as compared to other middle school’s grades?

There are other schools in the NYCDOE that operate with a system similar to this. At the end of the year, your levels will translate into a numerical grade that can be used to apply to any NYC High School.


What does this mean for the NYS tests that are usually given in the Spring?

Outcomes are based on state standards that are the ones usually assessed on the NYS test. Learning Opportunities provide chances to demonstrate your ability to meet and exceed the standard for these Outcomes. Because the Outcomes are based on the standards, the Learning Opportunities are preparing you to meet the standards assessed on the NYS tests.


What is a holistic grade? How is that different from “regular” grades?

A holistic grade takes into consideration your whole body of work. Rather than looking at specific components of a skill, we look at the skill as a whole. A good example is when someone is learning to skateboard, the outcome is that a person can successfully and safely ride a skateboard down the street. This means that you may not be very good at skateboarding at first, but after continued practice, you will improve at skateboarding.


How many Learning Opportunities will I have in a semester?

The number of Learning Opportunities will vary from grade to grade and subject to subject, however you can expect a minimum of 3 for each of the Standards-Based Outcomes in a subject area. Sometimes the same Learning Opportunity will be used for more than one Outcome.


Since I am not getting grades on everything that is assigned to me, do I actually have to complete all the assignments? All of the work that your teachers assign, are in support of a particular Outcome. Without completing the daily assignments, you will not develop and get feedback on the skills and thinking that are needed on a Learning Opportunity.

Will there be Parent Teacher Conferences this year?

Yes! Parent teacher conferences will take place virtually at 2 points during the school year, once per semester. Teachers will be able to talk about your progress during these conversations.


How will a rating be converted into a numerical grade?

At the end of the year, teachers will look at each student's performance/progress on each Outcome. They will look at the rating on each of the learning opportunities that were completed for a particular outcome. An overall rating will be determined for each outcome. The overall rating has a numerical equivalent.

Standards-Based Outcome Overall Rating

(rubric and iO classroom)

Grade Equivalent (for calculating final grade)

Exceeding Standard (ES)


Meeting Standard (MS)


Approaching Standard (AS)


Not Yet Approaching Standard (NY)


No Evidence (NO)




Can I fail?

On individual learning opportunities, you will receive a rating based on the outcome. A rating of Not Yet Approaching or No Evidence indicates that you have not demonstrated the learning outcome and it is an area for you to focus on. This will not be the only way you can demonstrate outcomes. You will have at least 2 other opportunities to demonstrate each outcome. At the end of the year, if you have received mostly not yet approaching or no evidence, you may receive a numerical score below a 65, as based on the equivalency chart. Report card grades lower than 65 are failing.


How do I know what I did wrong?

For each Learning Opportunity, a rubric corresponding to the Outcome will be provided which will give information about your performance. Feedback on Learning Opportunities are also a good place to start when thinking about where to focus next time.


Will I be allowed to revise my work?

In some cases, Learning Opportunities may include a revision; other Learning Opportunities may not. You will likely not be allowed to revise every Learning Opportunity, but you will be provided with multiple opportunities to demonstrate what you know.

Please click on the following links for the pdf of the above letter as well as the Wagner Grading Policy. 

Letter:  10.7_Family_Letter_for_Grading_Policy.pdf

Grading Policy:  Wagner_Middle_School_Grading_Policy_2020-21_.pdf
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