Should grading be on participation and attendance?

On May 4, 2017, the CUHSD Board of Trustees passed Assistant Superintendent Mary Streshly’s proposal to revise board policy 5121 about grades and evaluations of student achievement. The new update gives the Superintendent until June 2018 to create new district guidelines to have a more fair, consistent grading system in which there are certain rules about how much of a grade can be determined by non-academic factors such as effort and work habits. The new policy also states that “attendance and student conduct will be factored only in a separate citizenship grade.”

So what does this mean for students and teachers? It means that no longer will grades be determined by participation in class discussions and no longer will a consistent tardy streak factor into a grade. While this proposed new policy could hurt some students who rely more on their attendance and willingness to pitch into class discussions than their homework assignments to boost their grades, it will ultimately be beneficial to prevent subjective grading and to clarify the separation between academic success and disciplinary success.

This new policy, if passed, could shift some teachers’ grading systems that have previously been mostly based on participation and attendance.

“It’ll affect us to relook at everything, but not so much so where what we’re doing right now is going to change. Instead of just looking at attendance and participation, we’re looking at performance.  We’ve been doing a lot of stuff where students have had to work together to produce something like a tumbling routine or line dancing, so it’s going to be more performance-based,” said Dawn Marie Andrade, physical education teacher.   

Although it is certainly true that factoring participation into students’ grades can help to stimulate richer class discussion or, in the case of foreign language classes, to encourage students to speak in the language they are learning, participation as a deciding factor in the overall outcome of a student’s grade is unfair, and often subjective. Because most teachers do not have the time or patience to accurately record each time a student participates, participation grades are often entered without any particular basis, other than that teacher’s vague memory.

“I don’t think that teachers should be able to control your grade by non-academic performance-based factors,” said Jordan Gemignani, junior.

According to CUHSD board member Kalen Gallagher, “We got some feedback from teachers that was like ‘hey, you know, we want to be part of this discussion as well.’ There are students and parents who want to be part of this discussion, so basically the board passed this [new plan] which gives us around a year to bring a bunch of people together, kind of create a task force, and move forward in a way that works for a lot of people.”

In order for this revised policy to benefit both students and teachers in creating a more fair, objective, and reflective grading system; parents, students, teachers, and other members of the CUHSD community are encouraged to sit in on board meetings and voice their opinions in the coming year.