Grade Disputes

Hello, I’m back.  I know it’s been a while, and I apologize.

There was recently an article in the Chicago Sun-Times discussing the problem with having a different grading scale from school to school within the same district, or community.  For instance, there was one school where a grade of 90 would get a student an A, and at another school in the same district, that same percentage would grab the student a B.  This is very controversial stuff, and the discussion on which method is correct has been going on for some time.

There are valid arguments to both sides.  The side that believes in a 10-point grading scale seems to believe that this allows for less chance of failure for students.  In other words, 40%  wrong or off will still get a student a passing grade.  On the flip side, objectors say that this 10-point scale does not adequately prepare students for life after school, specifically college.  The question is, in terms of student work, what does “A work” look like?

This is something that I tried to carefully analyze while student teaching.  Does “A work” look the same from school to school?  Does it look the same from class to class within a school?  Proponents of the more difficult grading scale, where a 90% is a B, argue that this really weeds out students who are not meant for elite schools, especially students from weaker school districts.

Something about that logic bothers me.  In my opinion, students in low income areas with schools that perform a little worse than normal schools may need all the confidence they can get in the classroom.  I realize this may be a naive take on it all, but my goal is to make school as positive an experience it can be for students, and the difference between a B or a C may make their experience.  The goal is to engage students, and then keep them engaged once they have tuned into my program.  A more rigorous grading scale is like a television commercial in my opinion then, giving them more reason and chance to tune out.

Some argue that students will do the bare minimum to pass a class.  That may be true, but I still think we can shoot for the stars with our curriculum to achieve student understanding without making certain letter grades unattainable.  Thoughts?

About Pat

Pat Riley is student teaching at Amundsen High School in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood for the fall of 2010. He will be teaching Contemporary American History, starting just before the Civil War, as he works towards his Type 9 certificate with an endorsement in History and hopefully Business. Previously, he worked in public relations and business development for a law firm in Chicago, but decided his passion was education. Prior to working in public relations and business development, Mr. Riley received a B.S. in Kinesiology with a focus in Sports Marketing from Indiana University. Follow his blog at Musings on Apples and Education.
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