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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Grading 'reforms' teach kids they can 'do nothing, get something'


Teachers are complaining to Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews about grading reforms, he writes. A teacher in the high-performing Montgomery County, Maryland district fears that students are learning they can get good or good enough grades without doing the work.

Teachers can't give a zero for a missed assignment, unless they document their efforts to contact a parent about the problem. It takes a lot of time to send multiple emails, the teacher says. So he just gives students the required minimum -- 50 percent -- even if they did nothing.


In addition, students no longer get a lower grade if their performance slides from one semester to the next.

Before, if a student got a C one marking period and a B the next, the grade for the semester would be a B because the student was showing progress. If the student got a B the first marking period and a C the next, the final semester grade would be a C. Under the new policy, if a student gets a B in either marking period the final grade is a B.

"We’re deluding ourselves and the students into the idea that they’re something they’re not,” the teacher said. Students are learning that "you can do nothing and still get something." That will not serve them well in college -- or life.


Relaxing grading policies makes it easier to graduate. "The school system will tout their high graduation rates as proof that their policies are turning out educated people into the world equipped to handle the challenges of the 21st century," said the teacher. "And it would be a lie.”


When I was reporting at a new charter high school for my eventual book, Our School, I noted two unofficial credos. San Jose's Downtown College Prep had recruited struggling students, most from Mexican immigrant families, and was working to put them on track for college. The founders knew that happy talk wasn't going to cut it.


Credo 1: "We're not good now, but we can do better."


Credo 2: "Do the work."

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8 Comments


Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Jul 26, 2022

I was not a fan of Arne Duncan as secretary of education, but the thesis of his book, "How Schools Work", was surprisingly astute: he wrote that American education runs on lies, and the grading policy of Montgomery County (which is only mediocre by international standards, according to a study that appeared in Education Next [https://www.educationnext.org/study-shows-that-wealthy-suburban-school-districts-are-only-mediocre-by-international-standards/] perfectly illustrates why Americans continue to lose confidence in their state schools, and would do better to transfer their children into private ones that use international assessment techniques, which grade high schoolers in the collegiate manner described by Guest#d453, below.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Jul 27, 2022
Replying to

I mentioned neither homeschoolers nor "white students over all" (sic): why should I look this up?

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Guest
Jul 26, 2022

I remember when "self esteem" was the Flavor of the Month in edjoomikashun years ago.


The result seemed to be: We're dumb as a bag of rocks, but we're PROUD of it!


S.S.D.D.


Blather.Rinse.Repeat

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Guest
Jul 25, 2022

These reforms may be a problem for kids who only do the work if forced, but they would have been a godsend for me, as an ADHD kid who liked school. I once got a C in a math class after acing all the tests because I lost the notebook with my homework for the term the day before the end of term notebook check, which was your entire homework grade. Even though I'd done problem sets all along (see, aced tests). If teachers were only allowed to grade based on "exam/final project" instead of all the stupid tests of coloring skills or organizational skills, my grades would have been much better. Of course, they always said "Well, this is how coll…


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Guest
Jul 26, 2022
Replying to

Nope, I continued to lose notebooks throughout high school. The only major consequence was I couldn't join the National Honor Society. What finally stopped me from losing things wasn't "teachers acting like tin pot dictators." It was reaching a point in life where I could keep important papers in file cabinets and use electronic storage methods for most other things. I mean, no one would expect an adult to keep all their work in a single notebook which they were expected to transport between home and multiple offices multiple times a day. It's another example of expecting children to do arbitrary things to earn grades that have NO BEARING on the subject area or the world of work.


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