Conference Inspires Changes in Grading Practices

Erika Riedel, Business Editor

Various teachers have been experimenting with new grading policies after attending a Grading for Equity Conference on December 10 and 11.

Joe Feldman, author of Grading for Equity, challenged the rationale behind grades and claimed that many teachers base their grades on how they were graded themselves.

1 of Feldman’s main concerns is the basis of the 0-100 grading scale and the fact that nearly 60% of the scale is considered failure.  A solution to what he calls a mathematically irrational grading system, is giving at least 50% on assignments rather than a zero.

History teacher Lisa Herzig has “seen the impact of what a zero can do” and feels that eliminating zeros will give students a 2nd chance at success and will prevent “demotivation.”

According to English teacher Jake Donohoe, zeros are “grade destroyers” because students “have to do so much to get out of that.”

“Fundamentally I don’t think it is a fair way to assess somebody because if you get a 0 then you have to get 2 A’s to get to a B. It is like a double F,” said Donohoe.

After hearing Feldman’s concerns about extra credit inequity, Herzig also decided to eliminate all extra credit from her U.S and AP U.S. History classes. This includes the unused bathroom passes that she had been allowing students to turn in for extra credit.

According to Herzig, this system was unfair to students with “intestinal challenges,” among other medical conditions, in which refraining from bathroom use isn’t an option. The previous system also had “nothing to do with learning.”

A radical idea mentioned by Feldman that teachers have yet to implement is the elimination of graded homework and classwork. However, Herzig sees this method as unrealistic for the time being as “tests would be the focus point” for classes causing “more cheating.”

Even if teachers gave a student “18 times at taking a test over again,” they “would probably still fail” since they failed to learn the material since they didn’t do the homework. Therefore, this solution of no homework is “actually reinforcing failure,” said Herzig.

In addition to getting rid of extra credit and zeros, Herzig has also decided to eliminate plusses and minuses in her grading system. According to Herzig, this was an “easy and do-able” change to “dial back some of the competition.”

Donohoe, however thinks that this change would make “people lose their minds” as her class doesn’t have “a tremendous number of points” and without plusses “there would be a lot of students with flat Bs” instead of B+’s.

“I recognize that we live in a world where it is more competitive to get into college so somewhere in there has to be a middle ground. I don’t want to stop anybody from going to college but I also don’t want your grade to be meaningless,” said Donohoe.

According to junior Noel Seo, since Campolindo has a 4.0 non-weighted system, meaning that plusses and minuses don’t impact GPA, she thinks that the “simplification to just letters,” will help her to “stress less about small changes” to her grade.

Feldman’s conference also prompted teachers to think about bias. Although Herzig views Campolinfo as a “socioeconomically static community,” re-evaluating the inequity that exists today might “help a few students out.”

1 of the biggest sources of inequity is the inconsistency of grading policies from teacher to teacher. “You have no control over who you get with a few exceptions. Teachers aren’t all doing the same thing or grading the same way and that would make you advantaged and disadvantaged,” said Herzig.

According to Seo, she sees variation in grading practices as more prevalent in the humanities department. “STEM courses have a clear-cut right or wrong answer and the teachers have to follow that system,” she said. However, Seo believes that it all “depends on the student’s effort and how willing they are to learn” as a “big part of learning at Campo and life, in general, is being able to adapt to different grading systems.”