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A grading shift from A-F to 0-4 and why Unified is implementing it

RACINE — A grading system ranging from A to F has been the standard for most classes for years. But at Racine Unified School District some classes have started going to a zero-to-four system, a system known as standards-based learning.

The implementation of standards-based learning for some subjects and grade levels at Racine Unified schools has created a shift in the way that teachers must think about student assessment. It’s a system that district officials say helps better measure student development and knowledge but one that has come with challenges.

The standards-based learning model was put in place in Unified for some classes at the start of the 2017-18 school year.

The standards-based learning model focuses on student understanding of specific concepts, instead of a final percentage grade. Through this model, students are assessed using a scale from zero to four, measuring the student’s understand of each standard or specific concept. On this scale, zero means there is no evidence on the student’s understanding of a standard, and four means the student has advanced understanding of that standard. Report cards using the standards-based method include a student’s assessments on multiple standards, not just one grade for one class.

“It’s a better way to give us more accurate information about how our students are performing,” said Rosalie Daca, Unified’s chief academic officer.

Officials believe this method eliminates the subjectivity that comes with traditional grading and determines a student’s actual skill level. Daca also said this method gives students a better understanding of exactly what is expected of them, as they know which standards they need to be familiar with by the end of each course.

For a standard that’s taught throughout the year, a student might start out with a one or two for the first semester but move to a three or four by the end of the year.

“That’s what I like about this, is they can see the development of that particular standard over time,” Daca said.

Those in the Unified administration believe this is a better way than the traditional A-F model to determine what information a student actually knows.

“It’s really a mindset shift,” said Stacy Tapp, Unified’s chief of communication and community engagement.

For example, in the old model of student assessment the final grade in a particular class could have been mostly based on homework. If students didn’t do their homework, they would fail.

“That doesn’t tell you whether they know algebra or not,” Tapp said.

Origins of the system at Unified

This model has been in the works for about four years, since Daca started in her current position. It aligns with new math and English language arts curriculum rolled out in the district this year and last year.

The district had planned to expand standards-based learning and grading for science and social studies classes in the coming school year, but has decided against it. Instead there will be a kind of soft rollout. In 2018-19, teachers in those classes will use standards-based instruction, but will utilize a traditional final grading scale.

“This is a very complex system and we want to make sure that we have it right before we bring other subjects into it,” Daca said.

The new system has been somewhat of a struggle to implement. Some teachers are proficient in it and some aren’t, Daca said. In the spring, the district will bring teams of people together to take another look at its standards-based grading and learning model to make some adjustments. The district also hopes to figure out a way to make entering of the grades into the computer system less time consuming for teachers.

“We’re trying to work on a system where it’s easier for them to make entries,” Daca said.

District officials want to bring standards-based learning and grading into high school math, English language arts and pathway classes sometime in the future, but they plan to delay doing so until after the 2018-19 school year.

“We want to make sure that we do this right,” Daca said.


Bartender Baylee McDonough helps patrons with press-on tattoos during Mardi Crawl on Saturday night at Ivanhoe Pub & Eatery, 231 Main St., Racine. For more photos from Mardi Crawl, turn to Out On The Town, Page A10.

DeMatthew embraces the challenge: Former star player for St. Catherine's works in Bucks front office

MILWAUKEE — Jamie DeMatthew has never been one to shy away from competition.

In fact, the more intense the competition, the more engaged he becomes. That was vividly illustrated during his stellar career as a boys basketball player for St. Catherine’s High School.

As a starting point guard, DeMatthew guided the Angels to back-to-back WIAA state championships, the last coming in 2006. In his two years as a starter, the Angels compiled a gaudy 53-1 record.

His coach at the time, Bob Letsch, clearly recalls the competitiveness DeMatthew exhibited.

“Jamie was a competitor, oh yeah,’’ Letsch said. “He competed; he always competed, even in practice.

“He worked hard. His teammates respected him for that, and I really respected him. He got after it.’’

Now, just over a decade later, DeMatthew is still getting after it. It’s just not on a basketball court, although his line of work involves basketball. DeMatthew, now 29, is the senior account sales executive for the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association.

As his title denotes, DeMatthew now competes in the world of sales, selling tickets for Bucks games at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee. It’s a challenging job, one where he is constantly hustling for a sale.

DeMatthew sells all types of tickets for the Bucks: full-season packages, group plans, and tickets for the franchise’s upscale suites. However, his primary focus is group sales for youth basketball players and being in charge for setting up high school games in conjunction with the Bucks at the BC.

The principles he gleaned while playing basketball at St. Catherine’s and then at Lawrence University in Appleton, where he was either a starter or top reserve, are now being put to use in his sales job.

“I had really good players around me at St. Catherine’s and Lawrence,’’ DeMatthew said. “Some of my backups in high school could have probably started at any other school in the city.

“And in college, I was playing with guys who were all-conference or all-state players who you had to keep at bay. All of us were going for the same thing: playing time.

“It’s sort of the same thing in sales. You always have someone coming for your spot. It’s competitive thing. You always have to push yourself to get better and better. You’re being judged against yourself. If you’re not going to push yourself, you’re not going to have much success.’’

‘Oh, wow’ moment

The competitiveness of sales while working for a professional basketball organization is, DeMatthew says, a dream situation. It certainly wasn’t an expectation of his upon graduation from Lawrence University, where he earned a degree in history.

DeMatthew’s first job was being an assistant to then St. Catherine’s athletic director Chuck Wood. Then, he became the youth and adult sports director at the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie.

It was at that time DeMatthew decided to pursue a master’s degree in sports management from Cardinal Stritch University. He then sent out résumés to various sports organizations and, much to his delight, got a response from the Bucks.

When it appeared DeMatthew was the person the Bucks wanted to hire as a group account executive, he had one final interview — with then-Bucks owner and U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl.

DeMatthew was understandably nervous.

“It was probably about a 10-, 15-minute interview,’’ DeMatthew said. “He just asked about me and my family, my story. He just wanted to get to know me as a person, which was pretty cool.

“But I was very intimidated. It was sort of surreal. It was the first time during the whole interview process that it felt unreal, that I had an ‘Oh, wow’ moment.’’

A well-known friend

Kohl wouldn’t be the only well-known public figure DeMatthew would encounter in his new job. After finding a place to live in St. Francis, just south of where the Bucks used to train at the Cousins Center, DeMatthew discovered one of his neighbors was Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ superstar in the making.

Antetokounmpo was the Bucks’ No. 1 draft pick in the 2013 NBA draft after playing in relative obscurity in Greece. When he joined the Bucks, his parents and family remained overseas. What’s more, he still didn’t have a driver’s license.

It wasn’t long before Antetokounmpo’s newest friend would be DeMatthew.

“In his rookie year, there were multiple times we would ride to games (at the Bradley Center) together, so I got to know him a little bit,’’ DeMatthew said. “When I first met him, you could tell he was hungry and wanted to be great.

“I think what you see of him out there on the court is pretty much what you get of him off it.’’

Antetokoumpo, who’ll be participating in his second straight NBA All-Star Game on Sunday in Los Angeles, has spearheaded a resurgence in Bucks’ basketball.

The Bucks made the Eastern Conference playoffs last season and are poised for a repeat appearance this season.

“It’s an exciting time,’’ DeMatthew said. “It’s sort of reminiscent, I feel, like the early 2000s when the Bucks had the big three with Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell.

“You’re seeing more fans at the game now and everyone is wearing Bucks gear. You can feel the vibes. We’re a fun team to watch and it’ll be exciting to see what’s next for them and see how far they can go in the playoffs.’’

And if the Bucks show the competitive drive DeMatthew has, it just might be a long way.

Gregory Shaver 

Horlick's Andre Barry tries to block the shot of Park's Syid Abdullah during the first quarter of their WIAA boys basketball regional semifinal game Friday evening, February 28, 2014, at Park High School. Photo by Gregory Shaver Buy this photo at

Andy Manis 

Wisconsin's Aaron Moesch (5) passes against Michigan's Moritz Wagner (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Next North Beach Oasis concessions vendor eyed

RACINE — The City of Racine has a vendor in mind to fill an opening at the North Beach Oasis after its most recent concessions contractor closed its doors.

The search for a new vendor began after Benjamin Beer Company’s announcement it would close after Christmas Eve last year.

Now that Benjamin Beer has closed, the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services wants to negotiate and contract directly with Scott Jensen. He previously operated the Oasis and is interested in doing so again, according to a memo by Tom Molbeck, the department director.

Changes anticipated through the city’s capital improvements plan are expected to affect how the bathhouse operates, Molbeck’s memo states, which will inhibit a long-term contract with a concessions provider.

“Most operators coming in fresh would require a longer-term contract in order to recoup initial outlay costs for required equipment,” the memo reads.

Racine’s Finance and Personnel Committee recommended at its Jan. 22 meeting that city staff be allowed to negotiate and contract with Jensen. The City Council was scheduled to take action on that recommendation at its Feb. 6 meeting, however it instead deferred making a decision at the request of Alderman Steve Smetana, who represents the 5th District.

Smetana told his fellow council members that he has remaining questions about the proposal relating to the upcoming changes at North Beach. He declined to elaborate on those questions during the City Council meeting.

“I know there’s other things coming down the road for North Beach,” he said. “I just have other questions towards this issue.”

A city staff member stated the matter is time sensitive, because the city wants to put a concession vendor in place as soon as possible. The two extra weeks Smetana requested would not derail the process, the staff member said.