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Keiser's Roll: What's up with the new grading system?

April 17, 2013 - The more I hear about the "changing of education," the more I worry about the upcoming generations.

In the April 10 edition of the Oxford Leader, I wrote a story about how traditional letter grades are going to be eliminated at all Oxford elementary schools and a "standards based" system will be the new mechanism for grading. According the system the new "grades" will be M, P and I. The "M" stands for "Mastery," "P" for "Progressing and "I" for "Insufficient Progress."

A quick Google search showed that this new type of grading is being adopted all over the country as well as arguments for and against it. I am not one who always agrees with conforming to the "latest trend."

While many want to say that "we're making education better," I don't think we are. In fact, I think we're watering it down. I feel that this new type of grading is "reducing the blow" for underachieving students. It sounds to me more like a everybody-gets-a-trophy philosophy, which I don't think is healthy.

I am all for helping students reach their fullest potential and succeed both in and out of the classroom, but the bottom-line is, not everyone "wins" in life and we all can't be "winners" in everything we do.

At some point, we all underachieve at something and we must learn how to deal with that situation.

The question was posed "What does a B- really mean?" As a student, I was never confused as to what each letter grade meant and if I had a question, my teacher explained why they marked me down in certain areas, which resulted in the letter grade given. Usually there was a margin note on the side written in red ink, highlighting the positives and negatives of my work as well as corrections.

Traditional letter grades are not complicated to understand. "A" means excellent, "B" means good, "C" means average, "D" means below average.While I personally cosider a "D" to be a failing grade, it is considered barely passing in school. That leaves "E" and "F," which mean failure. So, according to the question, a B - would mean that student was doing well and they were just above average.

I also worry about how students are supposed to adapt to traditonal letter grades that don't sugarcoat whether they did well or not when they enter middle school and high school? Or is the future plan of education just to eliminate grading all together and just start handing out diplomas to anyone who thinks they deserve one? I certianly hope not.

This not only affects the students, but it affects the teachers as well. They are the ones who have to redo and change their system of teaching and assessing in the classroom.

I hope that teachers will really take the time over the next year to evaluate this new method and are able to find value in this system. But if they don't, then I hope they will speak out and let their voice and concerns be heard.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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