The shift in grading, what it meant for students


Riley Richards


It seems that at New Berlin West, there’s a new idea implemented into the the school day nearly every year, and this year it just so happened to be quite a large change. Deviating from what used to be the standard grading scale to “achievement based grading”, and similar to the change with the schedule from a standard school schedule to a block schedule, students weren’t very enthusiastic about the new idea.


The new grading scale was now based less around memorization of content and showing skills at specific times, but more about having specific skills and applications being learned to prove the level at which a certain goal has or hasn’t been reached. While this not only meant a lot of revamping for the teachers and their curriculums and assessments, it also meant a very large change for something many students hold near and dear to their hearts; their grades.


What was usually an “A”, “B”, ”C”, “D”, or unfortunate “F” now transformed into a seemingly less satisfying and truthful “4”, “3”, “2”, “1”, or the extremely rare “0”. At first glance it is admittedly extremely similar, however students soon found  a strikingly large contrast between the two scales, and that’s the fact that it’s now impossible to get anywhere in between the number grades.


While this may seems like a fairly insignificant change, it was a pretty big deal to a lot of students, especially the Juniors and Seniors who were trying to keep grades up for college applications and other opportunities beyond high school. The extra “+” or “-” could make an impact on a GPA, and without that, grades have been all over the place for many students.


For example, if a student took a test and would normally get either an “A-” or a “B+”, it’s now up to the teacher to determine whether or not what was missed to not get an “A” was small enough to still grant a new grade of “4”, or if it was too large of a piece of content that a “3” is appropriate. This can be extremely problematic in classes such as maths or sciences, places where a negative sign can still affect a student’s grade, and small mistakes can take a grade down by a whole mark.


This can lead to extremely unfortunate circumstances in which GPA’s either drop, or rise for that matter, from grades that were gained through quite small deviations in work. It left many students wondering why a change was needed in the first place, considering that their report cards were still shown using the standard grading letters and not the numbers of the achievement based grading, and were put together in a percentage that can in fact still use the “+” or “-”.


It is a little foolish to think that students are so focused on grades rather than knowing the content, but it has to be understood that not only do grades tend to be emphasized on a daily basis by teachers and parents alike, but it’s also common knowledge that colleges take a good look at GPA’s specifically from Junior and Senior year to determine if a student is a worthy applicant. Changing the grading system to be based around content rather than getting good grades might in fact be good for the student body in the long run, but for right now, the mindset of grades above most other things is still held pretty high among those involved with a student’s education.
Then again, by the time everyone involved adapts (or possibly before), New Berlin West may have multiple other changes in place from what we know now, and the grading scale might yet again have another new system. Whether or not the semi constant adaptations to the school are good depends on the fact that everyone likes to see progress, but no one wants to deal with change.