Is Gunderson’s new grading policy beneficial for students?
At the start of Semester 2, Gunderson implemented a new grading policy aimed to help succeed. Will it truly help?
February 3, 2021
Can fifty fix failing?
As distance learning has dragged on into 2021, more and more students have expressed their dissatisfaction with San Jose Unified School District and have voiced their concerns about a lack of consistency across classes and support for students. On January 12, Gunderson High School expressed in a letter that the pandemic and the shift to distance learning has warranted a reexamination of the grading process to pave the way for more students to be successful in every class. They introduced and set a new grading policy for this current semester in which the lowest grade for any assignment will be 50%. This policy will be greatly beneficial for students who have been struggling with the multitude of issues that distance learning has created.
Students’ mental health has raised larger concerns during the extension of distance learning. According to Mission Harbor Behavioral Health, “in a study of about 1,500 teenagers, 7 out of 10 kids reported that they were struggling with their mental health in some way. Over 50% of the teens said they struggled with anxiety, 43% dealt with depression, and 45% had felt more stress than usual.” Taking mental health breaks is important, and this new policy will allow students to take a break when needed and receive a 50% on their assignment.
Additionally, considering the uniqueness of at-home environments, it may be hard to get work done as a result of stress or household distractions. Being distracted by a younger sibling who you can’t get away from or loud conversations in the background can have a negative effect on a student’s learning experience, making it difficult to hear when things are due or focus on learning the material. 82.1% of Gunderson students reported that they’ve encountered similar distractions.
These issues often lead to worse grades or missed assignments. A study from the Bay Area News Group showed that 37% of students have one failing grade and compared to last year when only 27% of high school students had at least one failing grade. Given that so many students are struggling with grades, having the 50% minimum will be more forgiving on students who fall behind. They won’t be faced with a screen full of zeros, which will be less intimidating when they’re trying to raise their grade.
Teachers having random or conflicting assignment dates creates a lot of confusion and disorganization, leading to even more grade difficulties. When teachers have assignments due at different times of the day and on different dates, it gets difficult to keep up with. 78.6% of Gunderson students have encountered confusing assignment deadlines or earlier than expected due dates. Teachers also have different grading policies depending on the different classes. This new grading policy is uniform and it gives people more slack if they miss assignment due dates due to a lack of communication. Now, an honest mistake won’t result in a tanked grade; 50% will keep it more stable.
Despite the positives, some may believe that the 50% policy is too forgiving and unfairly benefits undeserving students that didn’t put in the effort during the semester. However, a 50% is still an F, so students must put in some effort if they want to pass the class and even more if they want a C or above. Further, given these unique circumstances and vast learning challenges at home, students truly need the help that this policy gives them, so any sort of boost is necessary.
Some also argue that students will become less encouraged to do work now that incomplete assignments will not result in a zero, making the policy counterproductive. However, the 50% minimum makes it easier to move up to a passing grade; the jump from 50% to 70% is much more manageable than digging themselves out of a hole to get to that same point from a lower grade. So more likely than not, students will see that there is still hope to get their grades up and will be more motivated to work for them.
Overall, this new policy will be beneficial to students given the struggles around mental health, at-home environments, and complications of assignments in an online situation. Being online means that students aren’t open to the same resources, so applying the 50% policy aids those who are in need of its support. With no work completed a failed grade would still stand but at a fairer percent and students won’t be lost in the sea of zeros but rather motivated by what they can do with a base of 50%. This policy’s benefits outweigh the negatives and will greatly help students as they navigate this semester of online learning.
The Controversial Grading Policy and Its Negative Effect on Students
At the beginning of the second semester, a schoolwide grading policy was implemented that would ultimately give students a 50% on missing assignments, rather than a 0%.
Changing the grading scale brings controversy and mixed opinions upon everyone. It also teaches students bad habits such as a lack of work ethic.
Gunderson’s new school-wide grading policy from 0% on a missing assignment to 50% as the lowest grade, isn’t beneficial for students because it allows them to do minimal work and still pass the class without mastering any skills.
Students may feel as if they can miss an assignment or two and it won’t affect their grade much at all. Previously, a 0% would take a huge hit on a student’s overall semester grade.
This creates a lack of work ethic to become a better student and get work in when it’s due. Creating bad habits in school is one of the last things students should want to do, and giving them a chance to slack off and not do their work isn’t helping them out at all.
It may help their grade more than a 0% would, but giving a student credit for something that they didn’t even attempt isn’t the right way of trying to help kids pass.
Teachers and staff should be preaching hard work and motivating students to get their work done on time rather than taking the 50% and moving on.
Regarding the grade policy change for the second semester, Principle Kevin Wan said, “The drawback from it would be if it’s poorly communicated that students might feel that they don’t need to put in the same effort or more effort in order to pass the class.” This is concerning to us that other students may not want to put in any effort realizing that they can pass easier.
We realize how many students struggle with grades and how stressful this school year has been, but if anything, it’s allowing students to not try at all, and just easily pass classes not gaining any knowledge.
History Teacher Mrs. Weathers said, “We had so many students who wouldn’t have passed their classes without some sort of intervention or policy change at Gunderson High School as a whole, and Gunderson students would have suffered the consequences.”
We feel like they should try regardless of the grade policy change. It doesn’t hurt to try in school, especially for the people who don’t try better for themselves.
A better alternative would be offering more extra credit, giving students the opportunity to improve their grade, rather than changing up the grading policy and making it easier for students not willing to try in school to get better grades.
“The number of students that had one or more F’s between PR 2 to Semester 1 dropped by 48%.”, Principle Kevin Wan said. Implementing this new grade policy would allow students to pass without trying in their education.
Changing how our school grades assignments in the middle of a school year is very problematic especially since we can’t change our schedule between semesters. “They should’ve started this at the beginning of the year,” Senior Jada Nguyen said.
With all of the issues, this new grading policy has, switching the policy mid-year has left students confused and upset about their class choices.
If our grading policy changed now, then what stops it from changing again next semester? The school continues to change the grading policy, which makes it difficult for students to understand the grading system in each class. And now the school is changing it between semesters?
Within the short amount of time that this new system has been implemented, students have already found ways to abuse the system by not turning in homework and classwork. With their inconsistent working habits, students are able to pass the class easier than before, compared to other students that attend class every day and complete the work.
This made many students, including ourselves, infuriated that students that don’t engage and try in class get similar results to hard workers. Grades are supposed to reflect on the work you’ve done in class but with this new system installed, it goes against that.
This alternative system doesn’t teach students about responsibility and that their actions have consequences. In the real world, the students that benefited in the short run will have trouble grasping reality in the long term because of this sugarcoated system.
This new grading system has presented lots of problems, and have far outweighed the pros. Changing missing assignments from 0% to 50% in the middle of the year not only confuses and changes a student’s mindset mid-year, but it allows them to slack off and achieve a similar level of excellence as a student who has been putting in the effort the entire time.