Grade Rounding Doesn’t Teach Real Consequences

Erika Riedel, Business Editor

Once the 1st semester wraps up next week, teachers will no doubt face an avalanche of student emails groveling for special consideration: “Could you please round up my grade?”

With college admission competitive as ever, those decimal points seem to make a difference. I can appreciate the frustration of falling just short of a goal; however, I also think that teachers need to stand firm and refrain from rounding up grades.  In fact, there should be a campus-wide policy that prohibits teachers from altering student grades from what is calculated by the grade book.

While one might think that it would be those students tying to pass a course for graduation credit with a D- or attempting to avoid summer school with a C-, most of the pleas to round up seem to be from students trying to convince their teachers to change that B+ to an A-.

There are, in fact, some teachers on campus who inform their students that they do round up grades.  Some say the round up 89.9% to an A; others are even more generous, rounding up 89.5%.

Not all teachers are on board with such grading practices however. Math teacher Petro Petreas opposes rounding grades as he thinks that “there has to be a line” and considers it “giv[ing] away free points.”

And then there are instructors who reward some, but not all, of those students who come up just short of the next grade range. English teacher Jake Donohoe practices an “individualistic” rounding policy, preferring to reward students who have shown recent improvement.

But, rounding grades presents a series of problems.

For 1 thing, rounding up is really just bringing everyone down.  If Campolindo decided that the qualification for an A was 89.6%, then students with an 89.59% would be the ones groveling.

Yes, it is unfortunate to miss the cut-off by a mere point or 2, but at the end of the day rules are rules, and if they aren’t enforced, then they shouldn’t exist at all.  It would certainly save teachers a considerable amount of work and moral strain, not to mention the certain relief of student stress, if students themselves could just decide what grades they wanted entered on their transcripts.

By awarding students grades they didn’t earn based on a standard grading formula, the school is promoting bias, which is particularly startling considering the lip service teachers and administrators have recently devoted to the supposed push for equity.

I understand the reasoning behind how Donohoe and others approach rounding.  There is certainly something to be said for students that show improvement over the course of a semester.

But if the grade is supposed to be an assessment of a student’s performance over the whole semester, then rewarding students who improve while stiffing those that remain consistent is unfair. If only certain students have their grades rounded, then those that don’t have a valid reason to complain.

Rounding grades also makes the achievement of earning a grade less meaningful. Our current system makes no distinction between students who come up short but receive a magnanimous gift and those who actually meet or exceed the standards.  While a teacher has the option to include pluses and minuses, these are meaningless when factoring GPA.

By succumbing to the whines of desperate students, teachers are setting them up for future failure and disappointment. No employer is going to “round up” an employee’s paycheck when that employee fails to meet a standard.  Close simply doesn’t cut it, and students, especially high school students, are running out of opportunities to appreciate this reality before they hit adulthood.

While there may be plenty of ways that teachers should show empathy, care, and even generosity in the event that students come up short, rounding up grades is not one of them.  It’s time for the school or the district to establish stricter guidelines for assigning semester grades.