Recently, a local school district decided that high school students should receive no grade less than a 60 for each quarter. According to the county’s Superintendent, Frank Till, “the whole idea was to not fail students early in the semester and (to) give them a chance to get their act together.” Needless to say, there was quite the uproar when WRAL reported the Superintendent’s decision. It did not take long for the article’s comment thread to move from curiosity to frustration to outrage to absurd. Just since this morning, the comments have more than doubled (and I’m sure they continue to grow as I write). Clearly, grading is a hot topic for teachers, students, and parents. Grades/assessment/evaluation are at the core of who we are as an education nation. Unfortunately, grades have come to be what defines many students — and teachers to a certain extent.
While I completely understand the frustration and even the arguments from those opposed to the idea (don’t forget I am a teacher), if you really think about, what Superintendent Till did actually makes sense.
Let me break it down for you. Our current state-approved grading scale is:
- A (100 – 93)
- B (92 – 85)
- C (84 – 77)
- D (76 – 70)
- F (69 – 0)
If you break it down into percentages:
- 8% of the grading scale is for A
- 8% of the grading scale is for B
- 8% of the grading scale is for C
- 7% of the grading scale is for D
- 69% of the grading scale is for F
How does that distribution even begin to make sense? Education is one of the only places where 60% of mastery is failing. A ten point scale to 50 actually makes more equitable sense, and to be honest, there is a lot of well-respected educators or educational experts who think we should abolish grading altogether.
Like I said, I understand the frustration with the Cumberland County decision. Initially, it does seem like teachers are just giving out grades. I mean..come on…if a student gets a 30 then they deserve a 30. You get what you deserve and you deserve what you get.
But what about keeping in mind the mission of every school and teacher…to educate. Whether a child (yes a child…some of these children are 10, 12, 16 years old that we feel deserve to learn these MEGA life lessons) receives a 32 or a 62, the message is very clear…THEY FAILED! Why does the numerical value matter at all? At least in Cumberland County, teachers hang onto the idea that they can re-kindle that student’s desire to learn, and students’ still have hope for re-focusing and re-committing their 2nd semester to learning.
Sure a few students will abuse the system, but isn’t that the case now and won’t that be the case later and always. I mean seriously, adults abuse the system every day, all day and for the most part that goes unnoticed. Why all of sudden – when a decision is made in the interest of students – is their such an outcry to teach students the lessons of the real world?
NEWSFLASH–The real world is nothing like school and it never should be.
Bottom-line…if a student is going to fail, then “handing” them a 60 will not stop them from doing so. So if you are worried about teaching someone a lesson or making sure a 15 year old gets what they deserve, then stop worrying because they will probably still fail.
But if you are more interested in teaching students to love biology or realize the importance of math or embrace the brilliance of literature or cherish the history of our country, then you have to understand this decision is a step in the right direction for all students.