Yesterday I expressed outrage at Pittsburgh's new grading policy and also posted the district's rationale. I'd like to take a couple minutes to explain in more depth why I find this new policy so objectionable:
1.) The process. Teachers were informed of the new policy via memo nearly a month into the school year. From an unscientific perspective, let me tell you two surefire ways to upset teachers: rain down commandments from above, and/or change things willy-nilly. The greatest irony is that the union and the administration finally agreed on something -- and it happens to be terrible idea implemented in even worse fashion.
2.) The memo argues that the policy will increase student engagement because it will prevent a situation where students have no chance at passing regardless of what they do. While I understand this goal, it fails to consider that it's also creating a situation in which students know they can do nothing for almost the entire semester and still pass -- because they're never going to be put in a situation where passing is impossible.
3.) It undermines the current grading system. A 0-100 system is flawed, but simply eliminating 0-49 does not make it a valid grading system -- it only serves to point out the flaws inherent in the current system.
4.) It makes grades even more meaningless. For example, a student who has test grades of 30 and 70 will now have a higher average than a students who has test grades of 50 and 65.
I could go on, but I'll stop there.
In short, the policy is inane. Joanne Jacobs ridiculed a somewhat similar policy Dallas just implemented on her blog a couple of weeks ago but, unlike Pittsburgh, Dallas requires that students re-do assignments and re-take tests in order to earn the grades.