Pondering Progressive Grade Policies

Yesterday, I discussed how changes to academic letter grades may impact students, educators and families with Aubrey Aquino of KFBK News Radio, here in Sacramento, CA.

Some school district officials, like those in Sacramento City Unified School District, Oakland Unified School District and Los Angeles Unified School District, will no longer award D’s or F’s to students failing to meet curriculum standards. Administrators seek to encourage students to master concepts, retaking tests until passing or not being awarded zero points for a missing assignment.

While a worthy endeavor, many critics have decried the grading process, as grade inflation has masked the achivement and understanding of students. And, students themselves protest the unfairness of grades, when their colleagues choose to cheat.

Changes to the grading process may also impact the college admissions process, as letter grades are the sole indicator of academic ability amidst widespread test-optional/test-free/test-blind admissions practices.

Furthermore, without failing marks or zeros, parents have fewer indicators to trigger interventions, like tutoring or discussions with teachers, to best support their student’s academic progress.

And, teachers will need to revise their curriculum and teaching styles, which may prove challenging as secondary school teachers already manage 100+ students daily, and likely still remediating and reacclimating students who spent eighteen months sequestered in their homes learning through the Zoom.

Additionally, teachers may inherit students who’ve been “passed through” under such mastery grading policies, yet still need academic remediation. Thus, students who are making adequate academic progress and those at the top of the academic meritocracy who are college bound, may be neglected, needing to find eduational support outside the school system or risk being punished academically for actually meeting educational standards.

Thus, families, students, and educators will need to collaborate in order for such a shift in the academic grading process to be effective. Otherwise, what is a worthy endeavor, to ensure all students learn, may in reality create further divisions between groups of students and only pass on the lack of education to colleges and/or employers, stymying economic prosperity.

Creative Marbles was founded by teachers who appreciate helping students discover their aptitude, first in the academic classroom, now as part of the complex college admissions process. For more information, please contact us

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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