My son came home with his first report card for the 2014-2015 5th-grade year at Cheat Lake Elementary School, in Morgantown, Monongalia County, WV. Although, we had been forewarned about the new standards-based grading approach, I was still utterly miffed in reviewing his report card. Filled with “MS” (meets standards) and “AS” (approaching standards) in all grade areas and multiple “objectives” identified under each, quite frankly, it makes absolutely no sense . . . . or should I say, it is complete nonsense. Apparently, this grand grading experiment is the school board’s equivalent of “every kid gets a trophy.”
In early reports of the new grading system, one of the primary justifications for this trial run of the standards-based grading was that . . . well, in essence, no kid fails and every kid succeeds. Heck, I say – except for the kids that are actually succeeding! So the kid that gets 100% across the board on all exams in a particular class, will get an “AS” (approaching standards), just like the kid who received 60-70% grades on all materials in the same class . . . or the kid who received 60-70% grades in the same class, but at a level of that class 1-3 shades lower. How does this incentivize the child in the highest level of a class, obtaining the highest grades in that class to continue to work hard and strive for the 100%? How does this give any real indicator of that child’s performance? The standards-based advocates say, that performance should not be measured on the bell curve, as compared to peers, but rather should be measured against “objective” grade-based standards. This is complete nonsense. First, who sets these standards? Are these standards set by the school board, the individual school, the teachers, or some imbecile bureaucrat at some regional or national level? Why are the standards not graduated to reflect the gradations and levels of a particular discipline (e.g. math, science, etc.) or the sub-standards/”objectives” within that discipline. Why does a kid obtaining a 70% average in the lowest level of a class (say math) get an “AS,” while a child who is in an advanced/highest level of the same class, earning a near 100% average also get an “AS”? How does this make any sense. What “standards” are being applied here that would yield such a result? Naturally, the answer is the “every-child-gets-a-trophy” standard!
Part of this farcical grading scheme was revealed in the three pages of explanatory materials that came with the report card, explaining that because the children are learning new materials, most of them will receive “AS” grades in most subjects and standards. Frankly, this is a lame excuse for the dumbing down of our grading system and grading every child as “average.” In reality, is not the whole purpose of school for the children to constantly learn new materials? With this rationale, every child should get an “AS” in every class and “standard” every single time. How then are the children who are excelling and obtaining very high averages in the highest levels of classes, who are consistently performing better than most of their peers rewarded for their high level of academic excellence? You guessed it – they are not. They get a pat on the back and a “good job – you are approaching standards” just like every other kid. Everyone here is special, just like you, and don’t you think for a minute that you are any more special than any one else.
I would like to invite any educator who actually supports this rubbish to reply and provide some logical rationale and insight as to the benefits of this new standards-based-grading. Armed with an education degree and a doctoral degree, I would gladly welcome an intelligent discussion/debate of these issues. Likewise, any other frustrated parents are more than welcome to provide your insights, thoughts, rants, etc.