Grading practices have been a hot topic for many years. Principals and teachers have been trying to find a fair system that works to evaluate what a student actually knows. If we take away what was ingrained in us as students and think clearly about finding out what a student actually knows we would treat grades much differently. When I hear comments like, “It worked for me” or “We turned out fine” that information is not exactly true. In the 1950’s using our current or similar grading scale there was an approximate 30% graduation rate. Educators have been working for years to increase the graduation rate so that students may have a better opportunity to be successful. This unfair system that we currently use is being challenged all over the country. Any mathematician would agree that this scale is unequal. In fact, the scale does nothing but calculate a GPA with numbers.
These grades don’t mean anything regarding student knowledge of content. For instance, a teacher gives an assessment to two students. Both students receive a grade of 88. The first student turns in the assessment a day early and receives 5 extra points receiving a new grade of a 93 A. The second student turns in the assessment a day late and loses 5 points for a new grade of an 83 C. Although both students mastered 88% of the work, their grade is based on their behavior and not the knowledge they gained in the process. Therefore, the grade of a C and of an A have no bearing on what the student actually learned, but drastically impacts the student’s GPA.
This is very simple. Grade the knowledge and not the behavior. Poor choices or just bad behavior should be addressed through a discipline code of conduct not through a student’s GPA. There has been much debate of this simple action, yet the impact happens daily in classrooms across the country. The extra points for good behavior are just as damaging as taking away points for poor behavior. Let’s look at the extreme case of a student that cheats on a test. The student cheats and receives a zero, which is a grade for their behavior not their knowledge. I truly believe that a student must be disciplined for this poor choice. Again, we send this to the code of conduct for a suspension or whatever the school or district deems appropriate but the student needs to retake the assessment (different assessment) so that the students’ knowledge is assessed.
Now for the truth regarding the 61 floor. Due to the current unfair grading scale some schools and districts have moved to a 61 floor. This has been in place for quarterly grades in most districts all over the country for at least 10 years. This is a balanced scale of each letter grade weighing an equal amount, the F still weighing the most. In my researched based opinion, a 1-4 or 1-5 scale would be more appropriate. We have been using this scale for AP exams for many years. If you look closely around the state you will see this used in schools and districts and may be referred to as “standards-based-grading.”
“It is giving students something for nothing!”
This is false information and this is what people are really stuck on. Let me say that I completely agree with you. If this is happening it was never the intention of the 61 floor. Every teacher and principal is and should be held accountable for student learning. The outcome of student learning should be mastery of the content. That mastery level should be decided by the teacher. I would expect a student to learn at least 61%, if not more, of what I taught as a teacher. If not, I need to re-teach and re-assess student learning until I am satisfied with mastery. I would not allow my student to get away with doing zero or even half of my expectation. Every student must meet my expectation of mastery for each individual child. What if an assignment is not turned in? Then again, we go back to the code of conduct. In most cases a student’s free time is taken away until the assignment is completed to the teacher’s satisfaction and a true assessment of the child’s knowledge is gained. There should never be something given for nothing. I hear people talk about teaching responsibility, character, and integrity. The best way to teach that is to make sure we don’t give zeros by allowing a student to do nothing. A zero lets a student know that they don’t have to do any work, that they don’t matter, and that we don’t care about them. But what about tough love? Well, that’s what we have been doing and to be honest, it’s not working out all that great. Our job as educators is to educate. Educating a child is more than dumping a wealth of knowledge on to the floor and hoping that some of the students will pick it up. Educating a child is about educating all students and giving them more than just a chance to be successful, we want to make sure we are pushing them to gain an education by never allowing them to get something for nothing.
And finally, thank you to all the teachers who are doing this each day! They are the quiet warriors that are fighting for kids, making sure their students are well educated, training them to get the work turned in, and celebrating their success!