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ND school becomes first in state to ditch traditional grades

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HUNTER N.D. - Northern Cass Public School is ditching traditional grades, in hopes students will learn more.

It's a first-of-its-kind program in North Dakota, but it might not be the last.

"We call it a seed project," Northern Cass Superintendent Dr. Cory Steiner said. 

He's spearheading 'personalized learning,' a new method tried by other schools across the country.

"We want it to be a reflection of what a learner does or does not know," Dr. Steiner said.

Students will no longer get an 'A' or a 'D' on an assignment; instead, they will receive a number between 1 and 4.

A number '3' means students are proficient and can move on to the next lesson, which will hopefully close gaps in learning.

"That gap tends to get bigger," says Dr. Steiner. "By the time they're a senior, that gap can be a disaster for learners."

With the new program, students can move at their own pace, ahead of the curve or a little slower.

Some students have already started a similar program last year, known as the 'Jaguar Program.' It was the school's first attempt at personalized learning through an online format. They continued it again this year, with the changes.

"I really like it. That you can work at your own pace," Northern Cass student Timothy Myers said. "I'm almost already done with my 9th-grade year."

For students who don't work ahead, the new changes could affect graduation rates, within reason.

"This idea that we can put everything in a year and say if you don't make it, you fail. It just doesn't make sense. That's why we're changing this," Dr. Steiner said. 

If the program goes well, Northern Cass could become an example for others to follow in the state.

Northern Cass is working with universities so these changes won't affect college admissions.

Students will still have a GPA, calculated from their proficiency scores.

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