Sevier’s grading policy puts student learning at risk

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Murphy Cody

A NO-WIN SCENARIO. Teachers at Sevier Middle have to give no grades lower than 60%.

A few years ago, Sevier Middle School’s administrators decided to not give students a grade of zero any more. Not on assignments, not on tests, not on quizzes, and not on missing work. The lowest grade a student could earn was suddenly a 60.

Here’s the problem: parents see a 60 on their child’s report card and assume that they understand sixty percent of the material. That is obviously not the case. Sevier’s “60s policy” is unfair and doesn’t help students at all.

According to “The Case Against Zero”, zeros send a strong message. Students may simply give up. Having sixty points in between a zero and a sixty doesn’t represent a student’s performance accurately, according to “The Case Against Zero”. This is true, but Sevier’s policy is not a good solution.

At Sevier Middle, even when a student does not turn in an assignment, they still get a 60. Why would a student attempt an assignment, knowing that if they don’t do it, there’s a sixty percent chance they could make the same grade even if they do the assignment? If a student were to do an assignment and get a 60, why would they do the next assignment at all? Either way, they are guaranteed at least a 60.

Not doing any of the work deserves none of the credit. Period.

This also teaches students a bad work ethic. If you show up to a job, and do none of the work, you won’t get sixty percent of the pay, you’ll get fired. Employers aren’t going to waste time and money on someone who thinks they deserve their pay while doing nothing.

Some studies have shown that standard grading is not useful and doesn’t help kids grow. These studies suggest proficiency grading instead. This type of grading uses numbers, with four being the best grade and one the lowest grade.

In proficiency grading, a grade of one gets the point across: the student does not understand enough of the material. It is a clear way to communicate. Instead, at Sevier, a student may understand none of the material, yet parents and students believe that they understand sixty percent of it.

Proficiency grading is effective, and if Sevier Middle had made the decision to implement this kind of grading across the board, that may have worked. Sevier, however, has chosen neither traditional grading nor proficiency grading. Teachers just hand out sixties in place of zeroes.

By setting the lowest grade to a sixty, Sevier administrators thought they found a good compromise between the two options. They were wrong.

Another problem with this “60s policy” is what it teaches students. Every day, many students across Sevier and many other schools just show no interest in their education or their future. It is difficult to watch a teacher try their hardest to actually get a student to care about their own life, their own future, and the student just sits there and ignores every word.

It’s a lot easier for a student to do that when they know the grade on their report card will not drop below a sixty.

Life is full of struggles, and teaching students that they can sit there and do nothing, but still receive sixty percent of the credit is ruining these students’ futures. Sevier’s grading system doesn’t teach students the hard work and determination that is required to be successful in anything.

The main purpose of grades is to communicate to parents and students how well students are learning and how much of the material they understand. It’s not a punishment. It is a statement of fact.

Sevier’s grading system is inaccurate and deceptive. It doesn’t teach students the life skills they need to succeed. The grading system at Sevier has earned a 0.