Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pittsburgh's Prepostorous Policy

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree that the policy is pretty silly. Instead, I like the idea of allowing students to drop one or two of their lowest scores each marking period.

This method was widely used in my school days, including in college and even occasionally in law school. It accomplishes the same goal of allowing a student to miss one or two assignments without becoming demoralized. But at the same time, it encourages the student to study harder and perform better on subsequent assignments.