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Nov. 12, 2009

Grading the grades

by Gardi Royce, Page Editor
Starting this year, elementary school students will bring home report cards with more details than a NASA operation manual. In a time when education success is determined by test scores and GPAs, MCPS has gone too far with these new report cards. Though the cards were meant to help parents, they end up not delivering the important information and establish an emphasis on grades rather than learning.

The report cards eliminated traditional grades of As and Bs for how well students did on assignments. Now teachers are required to give grades of one to four in sections of subject learning skills as well as accuracy on assignments. The idea is extremely holistic and beneficial for the students, yet the original intent is overridden when math and social studies teachers have to put grades in over 10 sections for each student.

Even though recent budget cuts pushed teachers to the brink of extinction, MCPS has rolled on, assigning more grading work to its teachers. The fact is, most parents would much rather have the teacher hold a meeting with them, where parents can get more information about their child then any extended report card could give. This whole issue of grading information could be resolved by just having the teachers and parents meet at more frequent dates.

The new report cards reflect a current trend in education where more is better. Schools are assessed based on how many Advanced Placement classes' students take and how many people pass the High School Assessment test, not how many people understand the material.

But such extensiveness in which students are graded and analyzed is bound to have dire effects on children's psyche. As the students begin realizing early in life that school is only about grades, they will stop caring about the learning. Initially, it makes students resent school, but more importantly, it makes students only motivated by grades, rather than the benefit of learning the material. MCPS further impresses this numerical measurement concept on students' minds in later grades with grade- reporting sites like Edline. Students can never escape from their overly scrutinized grade reports.

While the people who cooked up these new report cards had a good structure in their mind, the new system is a flawed one. School needs to be a place where teachers can interact with students and parents, where parents can assess their child's progress in a face-to-face conversation with the teacher rather than on a sheet with complicated sections and numbers.

MCPS has always been interested in preparing students for success in college and careers. Yet it's necessary for people to stop and look at the techniques they are using. The students are tracked from a young age and taught that if they get good grades, they will succeed. While this is generally true, school needs to be about education and developing learning techniques, not just about pushing kids to get a 4.0 GPA. This will not only create unmotivated students, it will also create members of society who are more concerned with the end result than the techniques and methods used to achieve it.



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