Grading policy change benefits students, promises consistency

Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, teachers will be required to round up to the next whole number if a student earns a grade of 89.5, 79.5, 69.5 or 59.5, to report grades in all classes using a 100 point scale. The policy was adopted in response to parents and teachers who objected to discrepancies between teachers who rounded and those who don’t.
Associate Superintendent for Instruction Sandra Mitchell drafted the new policy, and said that it does not remove teacher discretion in determining student grades.
“We received complaints about inconsistent final grading practices among teachers from parents, teachers, and teachers who are also parents. Dr. Jeck thought the concern was compelling enough to warrant putting a regulation in place,” Mitchell said. “Does this regulation obliterate all teacher discretion in grading? No way. I believe the most important teacher discretion actions exist in the instructional and assessment process.”
Some teachers prefer the discretion to round, based on a student’s effort and mastery. Other teachers prefer the new policy because it makes the decision on whether or not to round easier. Math teacher Ann Meyer doesn’t think rounding should be mandatory.
“I don’t think [the policy] should be mandatory because everyone has different standards. I use the rounding because my grading standards are so strict that I round to give the students an advantage,” Meyer said. “I understand the county wanting consistency, but I’d like for teachers to have more leeway.”
The county adopted a 10-point grading scale in 2009 that lowered an A from a 94 to a 90. Math teacher Laura Nix-Berg feels the rounding policy will make it even easier for students to get higher grades.
“The grading scale used to be more strenuous than it is now. With the policy, it is as if we are inflating the grades,” Nix-Berg said. “It’s almost as if it is setting them up, especially if they are going to college.”
Junior Alex Amirato sees advantages in the rounding policy and few disadvantages. To her, the half a point is not big enough to create a difference in the teacher’s grading or in the students’ work.
“The new policy won’t change anything,” Amirato said. “Students will still work hard for an A; if there is no risk, there is no reward.”
History teacher Ron Pfieffer does not have issues with the new policy because there are multiple ways a teacher can work in discretion by increasing the difficulty of the work, weighing participation grades more heavily, or giving the students more assignments.
“Consistency is the right thing to do. I can’t see a situation where a half a point difference will give a massively misleading idea,” Pfeiffer said. “There are more tools in a teacher’s tool box than just rounding.”
Pfeiffer also points out that the final letter grade tends to be extremely important to a student’s parents. In terms of college applications, the difference between letter grades is significant. If a student gets a rounded grade in one class, but not in another, the discrepancy upsets parents.
“Letter grades are very important to some parents,” Pfeiffer said. “To some, a letter grade is more important than the actual education.”
Most students welcome the new policy. The work load from classes can be stressful, so the new policy reduces stress. The half point isn’t seen as an unfair advantage, but rather as a consideration students deserve because of the work they have done.
Junior Erika Smith sees the new policy as a great opportunity for students. For example, students with a 69.5 could use the boost to a C. In the past, Smith has been on the verge of having all A’s, but one teacher, who refused to round, gave her the one B on her report card.
~nina quiles, staff reporter