Making the grade

By on April 30, 2010

One Krier editor worries that GPAs may suffer for students who just don’t get it
by Mel Mazuc
Kaneland Krier Executive Editor

Sculptures. Murals. Pottery. Collages. Beading. Painting. Drawing. Art.

Everything about it goes over my head. I could slave all day and night over the kiln, trying to fashion something that even slightly resembled a pot, or spend the entirety of my free time staring at a blank canvas, but the truth is, I’m never going to be good at it. My “pots” in middle school always ended up looking like a big vat of melting, ugly clay. My “paintings” could have been completed by my 8-year-old cousin. My “collages” may have been pieced together by a turtle.

No matter how much effort I put into making my middle school art projects, they look like something worthy of any grade; always stunk. No matter how hard I tried to put the gluey pieces of tissue paper on that collage and coordinate the colors I painted onto the canvas, I always struggled—and I always got a B or worse.

Once I reached high school, I never took another art class. It was simply bringing me down.

Word on the street is that grades may become more based on our mastery of skills, like math and grammar, instead of on participation and extra credit.

“When you ask teachers what they’re grading for or what grades should reflect, they say some pretty sophisticated things,” Superintendent Dr. Charles McCormick said. “We say we grade for academic skill, but what we really grade for is student compliance.”

In a recent grading scale study, Kaneland was handing out more A’s and B’s than almost any other school in the Western Sun Conference, yet our ACT scores were some of the worst. This doesn’t add up … our grades are the best, but our ACT scores are the worst?

“If we’re being told we’re better by what the grades reflect, then we really are having grade inflation,” McCormick said.

He suggested that the administration needs to begin having a conversation with the academic advisory committee about how to ensure there is no more grade inflation going on, which means all classes being based on academic achievement instead of participation and effort.

In theory, this is a great idea. What if we all worked until we knew how to write proofs, solve a problem on the differentiation of inverse trigonometric functions, and find the spot where that last little comma goes, just by offhandedly scanning our English papers?

“Someone that puts a lot of effort into something but it doesn’t turn out good will get a bad grade, but someone who puts in a little effort and it turns out good will get a better grade than they should,” senior Maddie Jarka said.

“I think for homework, you should be graded on effort and how much you tried,” freshman Alyssa Nolte said. “For tests and quizzes, it should be how much you know.”

Nolte said she thinks it would be harder for students to get good grades because it takes longer to learn the material, and it’s more challenging.

With harder grading, “I think it would be easier to see exactly what the student knows,” she said.

But sometimes this doesn’t work. While mastery of skills is important, especially for core classes like math and English, some students will never be good at some things. For example, I can’t cook. Luckily for my GPA and the safety of others, I never took any of the food-related classes here at school.

Other students type slowly or are bad at art. Remember back in elementary and middle school when art class and “learn how to use a computer” class were required? Remember the kids who tried so hard, but always failed to accomplish any of their goals?

One project we did in art class was a collage based on a play, and I worked so hard on that collage, I nearly died. I looked forward to art every day because I could work on my collage and make it even better than before. Still, though, because it was my work and my poor skill level, I only received a B.

“If someone tries on something and it doesn’t turn out the way they wanted, they still tried,” Jarka said. “It should be based off of how much effort you put into it.”

Some will argue that skill mastery is the most important, because learning how to do something is the reason we’re all in school. And I agree.

Partially.

I agree that it’s necessary to get good grades in English and math and science, because those are going to help us be able to function for the rest of our lives. Understanding and mastering subjects like that is important, and to that end, I have no problem or argument with dwindling down participation to a minimal percentage of our grades.

But what about the classes that are required, but are really just electives? Effort and participation should be almost the entire grade for classes like that, because some students will never pass classes about art or cooking or typing fast.

There are two options to remedy this: either leave the should-be-elective classes with participation and effort as a great percentage, or don’t make the classes mandatory.

Some students’ grades suffer because of this, and they get no benefit out of it. I want to be a journalist; how is my sixth-grade collage going to help me in my future?

It isn’t.

About Elburn Herald

The Elburn Herald has been serving the Kaneland communities since 1908. To reach our editor, Keith Beebe, email info@elburnherald.com, or call (630) 365-6446, ext. 105. To reach our owner/publisher, Ryan Wells, email RyanWells@elburnherald.com, or call (630) 365-6446, ext. 107.

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