Recently, the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District instituted a new grading scale system in an effort to help students succeed.
According to a Press Democrat article published on Oct. 27, the A through F grading scale remains, but in a significantly altered way: under the new system, each teacher can pick from five different grading scales, and customize them to fit their needs.
One of the scales under scrutiny calls for letter grades given according to 20 percent intervals. 60 percent is now considered to be worthy of a high C, whereas a score of 60 percent used to earn students a low D.
In order to receive a D, students now have to achieve a score between 20 and 40 percent. Likewise, A’s are handed out for any score above 80 percent.
What’s more, a new policy mandates teachers to give 50 percent scores on assignments that aren’t ever turned in.
Suffice it to say, many are baffled as to why such a ludicrous system was even seriously considered, let alone implemented.
I strongly suspect the new grading scale will not improve the actual performance of students.
In fact, it would not come as a surprise to me if the students began to perform worse on average, while simultaneously earning higher grades as a whole.
Those who support the new grading scale argue that students generally become demoralized in the face of low grades, and the new system will encourage students to excel, because the higher letter grades will no longer be so difficult to obtain.
On the other hand, critics say this system merely rewards poor performance with higher grades, which devalues higher grades in the process.
It seems plausible that grades will improve due to this policy, even if this is only because higher grades will become far easier to achieve. The real question is whether or not the students’ performance in school will improve.
If a student in Los Angeles gets an F on a test, while another student in Sonoma County, who’s taking the exact same test and giving the exact same answers, gets a C, then difference is merely one of appearance. On paper, the C looks better than the A.
However, the substance is identical. How the substance is rewardedis the key. Would the Sonoma County student be a better student than the Los Angeles student, simply because the local school district here says so?
So, the school district would benefit because of the higher grades, but this doesn’t mean the quality of education would become any higher.
Even if a straight F student begins to earn straight C’s, that doesn’t mean the student is going to be learning at a superior level.
At the root of this issue is the grading system itself. Grades are not an accurate measurement of one’s character or learning capabilities. Grades simply show how well one can play the game of school.
School shouldn’t be about getting good grades; school should be an environment where people, young or old, can learn about themselves and the world they live in.
If grades are the highest priority of school administrations, then decisions will be made in order to increase grades, even if this means the students themselves aren’t going to receive a better learning experience.
In the words of author John Green, “Public education does not exist for the benefit of students or for the benefits of their parents.
It exists for the benefit of the social order. We have discovered as a species that it is useful to have an educated population.”
Lowering the requirements for the highest marks of school will likely do our students and our society a disservice.
If people think making school easier to pass will inspire kids to try harder in their studies, then they must not remember their teenage years very well.