Teachers And Parents Criticize New “Equitable Grading” in Schools

There is a developing movement called “equitable grading”, and it’s making waves in schools across the US, including those in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. 

The movement focuses on giving students a fair chance to show they’ve mastered a subject without having them stress over deadlines throughout the year. 

But parents and teachers are now starting to ask the same question: Is ‘equitable grading’ really the best idea?

Understanding “equitable grading”

Equitable Grading is a new grading system that attempts to level the playing field for students and provide a fair grading system for all.

It aims to give every student a shot at success, especially those who have other responsibilities outside of school or face learning challenges, while allowing them to prove that they understand the subject.

It Removes Biases From The Grades

The system does not penalize students for external factors like being late to class or submitting late assignments.

Instead, it focuses on what the student had understood about the subject and not their behavior. In this way, the system removes ‘bias’ from the grades.

Equitable grading is all about giving students more chances to shine. If students don’t do so well on a test, they get another chance to do better. 

It also gives no bonus points for bringing in school supplies or being the teacher’s pet. This means no extra credit, either.

But what about homework?

Now, here’s the twist: With equitable grading, homework isn’t the superstar anymore. In fact, it’s kind of in the background and given a lot less importance.

Instead, the real heroes are big tests and essays. The idea is that these big final assignments only matter to show how much a student knows about the subject.

According to equitable grading, traditional homework, including assignments students loved to hate, doesn’t account for much of the final grade.

Schools Receiving Mixed Results

While it sounds good on paper, the teachers’ reviews and the school’s results have been contradictory.

When the system was implemented in Laura Jeanne Penrod’s Calark County school, she believed focusing on learning made sense. It was only with time that she noticed it came with strings attached.

Her 11th-grade students began skipping their rough first drafts, while others completely passed on the assignments as they knew they could just re-do them later.

Doing More Harm Than Good?

While some schools report positive results and positive change, others believe equitable grading does more damage as students take advantage of the system’s loopholes. So who’s right?

Unfortunately, in some schools, this system has led to a decline in the importance of practicing math problems, and essay drafts have begun to take a hit. 

On the other hand, the equitable grading approach has led to a leveling of the playing field. It has allowed students with jobs or family responsibilities outside of school and those with learning challenges to finally be on the same level as their peers.

Making Things Fair

While traditional grading favored students from slightly privileged backgrounds, particularly those with stable homes with highly involved parents, equitable grading and a lack of homework and graded assignments were implemented to make things fair for those who didn’t.

Equitable grading is all about fairness, and studies have shown that Ds and Fs go down with equitable grading. Students are less likely to cheat when there is no pressure from everyday tests.

Some, like Erin Spata, also felt this changed the student’s focus from “assignment points” to “understanding the importance of practice.”

But, some teachers and parents are not sure if these benefits outweigh their cons.

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The Pitfalls of Equitable Grading

Does ditching traditional homework and adopting equitable grading really help students?

Teachers worry that devaluing homework and emphasizing re-dos and retakes might not prepare students for the real world. In the adult world, a person cannot just decide not to do a task and expect to get a do-over whenever they want.

There’s a valid point there: deadlines and graded assignments teach children responsibility, time management, and the importance of hard work.

Teachers also noticed that equitable grading even led A-grade students to skip class, forget practice drafts, and even develop poor work habits. Instead of working hard throughout the year, students cram right before their summative assessments.

Is It The Right Move For Education?

Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s a bold experiment that even requires a change in how teachers teach.

Like any experiment, it’ll take some time to see if it pans out or if we need to return to the drawing board. For now, it’s a hot topic in education, and the jury’s still out.

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This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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