Setting students up for mediocrity

Hot on the heels of my blog about the school board and how it would be best if I just ran everything, I had an interesting conversation with a Professor at Ole Miss. His children attend the same school as mine and we were discussing our school’s athletics when the conversation came around to Brett and the struggles he’s had early on this year and the conversation regarding changing to the 10-point grading system.

Brett was an A/B student last year (yes, you remember those posts from proud Daddy!) but he’s really struggled some early this year, bringing home grades that are…well, they’re not As or Bs. Brett approached me during my conversation with the Professor and we whooped for joy over a 100 he received that day on an Accelerated Reading test. The Professor asked if it was a 10 question test…it was.

He suggested the 10 question tests simply set the kids up to be average students. He further suggested the problem runs deep in public schools and that our school board won’t consider changing the grading system in our own school to put our kids on equal footing as those in the rest of the state.

I didn’t understand how a 10 question test on our current 8 point system was such a bad thing…so I asked him. In order for a student to receive an “A” on the current system, he must make a 93 or higher. On a 10 question test, each question is worth 10 points and thus a student must get every single question right in order to earn an A. There is no room for error. Miss one question and you get a 90, or a B. On the 10-point system—which the majority of schools in Mississippi now use except for Lafayette because some school board members believe “that’s just the way it’s always been around here,” and that’s a good thing—a student may still miss one question and receive an A. Why should students be expected to perform perfectly in order to receive an A? Very few of us, adults included, ever perform to perfection.

Until he’d explained it to me, I’d never considered it like that…and I’ve given my fair share of tests to students (although it was on the University level 10 point system). I was opposed to Lafayette keeping the 8-point system on the grounds of equality and equal footing for our students alone. Our kids must make better grades than those of their peers around the state of Mississippi, even across town at Oxford, in order to receive a grade of A. To some students, that might not matter. To the majority of them, however, a GPA with As will carry much more weight than a GPA with Bs…even if the number score is the same. The colleges will look at the letter grade, not the number grade.

It’s one of those issues that seems like a no-brainer to me and most of the parents I’ve talked with. The administration, hired by the school board, has even wisely recommended the change. Yet, the school board has now affected potential collegiate admission to nearly 800 students.

That’s messed up.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Setting students up for mediocrity

  1. Chris

    Roland, this debate will never be won, for there are problems on both sides. Excuse me for interjecting this, but when I and my children were in school, ‘C’ was average. This means that most children were expected to get ‘C’s, and the grading system was established to revolve around this. Therefore, for a student to strive for all ‘A’s, wouldn’t he strive for perfection? Your question seems to believe that ‘A’s should be easier to attain. You talk about ‘dumbing down’, and setting them up for mediocrity, yet advocate a system that allows for exactly that. How about a school system that seeks to educate, rather than to manipulate numbers to make their records look better? I remember my brother taking his kids out of a school because the teachers told him they didn’t want the children to have bad self-esteem, so adjusted their grades accordingly. His reply? “Will his boss worry about him feeling bad about himself if he botches an assignment?”

    I truly believe that our whole 1-12 school system should be completely revised, for several reasons. Our children are not getting the education that we got 40 years ago, and each generation seems to slip a little more.

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