At West Potomac High School, taking F off the grade books

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    Nov 14, 2010 6:35 PM GMT
    "Depending on whom you ask, West Potomac High School's latest change to student grading is either another sign of a coddled generation or a necessary step to help struggling kids.

    The dreaded F has been all but banished from the grade books.

    The report cards that arrived home late last week showed few failing grades but instead marks of "I" for incomplete, indicating that students still owe their teachers essential work. They will get Fs only if they fail to complete assignments and learn the content in the months to come.

    The change in educational philosophy is intended to encourage students to continue working toward mastery of material rather than accepting a failing grade and moving on. Schools throughout the Washington area and the nation have made other moves to improve grading methods, especially as they affect low-performing students, though few have gone so far as West Potomac High, in ... Fairfax County.

    "It's a huge paradigm shift," said principal Clifford Hardison, who recalls that when year-end grades were tallied last June at West Potomac, he counted nearly 2,000 Fs, with a large group of teens racking up more than one failed course.

    The new strategy has critics - both within West Potomac and beyond - who fear that reducing the possibility of outright failure gives teachers less leverage while also giving students unrealistic expectations about the adult world they soon will enter. ... "

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    In my day, we were happy if all we got was an F ... And not a beating .... with a stick .... uphill .... both ways .... in 6 feet of snow!!!

    Damn kids today!

    Get off my lawn!
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    Nov 14, 2010 6:47 PM GMT
    And I thought my academic psyche was already shielded from damage when my college (a fairly reputable one) was accused of grade inflation. Pfft.
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:14 PM GMT
    I am not surprised. I know of schools that no longer have a "D", and students cannot be given anything lower than a 50. The rationale was: Why should you humiliate a student by giving him or her less than a 50? An "F" is an "F".

    However, I do see it from both sides. The point is for the students to learn the content. By giving them an I, obviously, they haven't learned the content. But at the same time, it is forcing more work on the teachers at the end of the course and it isn't fair to the students that busted their chops to get their assignments in on time. I can't just turn in work at my job whenever I feel like it.
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:25 PM GMT
    It made me laugh when i went to the USA and discovered that 70% was seen as a really bad mark. In the UK 70% is a first class degree.
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:25 PM GMT
    jprichva said
    Caslon16000 saidGet off my lawn!

    Get your own material.

    Hhahahahahahaha! Yes, I feel like Milton Berle!
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:28 PM GMT
    This kind of thinking kinda basterdises the marks of the students who actually tried and did well, when they were required to do so the first time.
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:40 PM GMT
    In the education system here, instead of failing students, we mark them on lower and lower sets of criteria. That way they always go home to their parents with some sort of success on their reports which is psychologically better for them.

    The direct result of this is illiterate and innumerate adults who find it quite psychologically difficult to cope with the rest of their life.

    Our system doesn't work. Maybe an I instead of an F would work. It's a shame that we need to experiment on our kids.
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:43 PM GMT
    jprichva said
    Caslon16000 saidGet off my lawn!

    Get your own material.


    Can I still shake my cane at them?

    I really like it.
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:44 PM GMT
    I never understood how grades worked here anyway. To me, if I did half the work I should get a 50% and that shouldn't be failing, it should be a C, since half was correctly done.
    It's garbage that I can only miss 5 questions on a 50 question test to get an A, I've always hated the grading system
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:47 PM GMT
    jomach saidI never understood how grades worked here anyway. To me, if I did half the work I should get a 50% and that shouldn't be failing, it should be a C, since half was correctly done.
    It's garbage that I can only miss 5 questions on a 50 question test to get an A, I've always hated the grading system


    Would you honestly want someone to operate on you that only got half the questions right and still passed???
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:51 PM GMT
    A surgeon: "Whoops I cut the wrong leg off this time. But hey, I got it right half the time!"icon_razz.gif
  • neosyllogy

    Posts: 1714

    Nov 14, 2010 7:54 PM GMT
    This is vaguely similar to Brown's approach, of not listing failed courses.
    I've always favored that. It's ridiculous to (A) scare students away from hard courses and trying out new things and (B) the political pressure to not fail a student (which can devastate their resume, piss off parents, etc.) leads to people being passed that should not be.
    I actually think removing failing grades will help reverse grade inflation as it's easier to say, "no grade for you until you learn the material" than it is "I'm going to brand you as a failure and screw up future applications". It's also more relevant: I generally care about what some one knows more than whether they stumbled getting there.

    Anyway, I support this wholeheartedly. icon_cool.gif

    [Seriously, the number of students I would have failed if I were allowed to. They send people out with papers saying they're competent in matters they have no understanding of. Its very sad.]
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:56 PM GMT
    So in essence we should have a grade for
    1. How well you learned the material
    2. How many tries you took to learn the material

    A for effort, F for the material learned.

    "But I really tried!"
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    Nov 14, 2010 7:57 PM GMT
    Does anyone really think a person with a C average or lower or an I for incomplete would pass entrance exams into medical school? icon_rolleyes.gif

  • neosyllogy

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    Nov 14, 2010 7:58 PM GMT
    jomach saidI never understood how grades worked here anyway. To me, if I did half the work I should get a 50% and that shouldn't be failing, it should be a C, since half was correctly done.
    It's garbage that I can only miss 5 questions on a 50 question test to get an A, I've always hated the grading system


    What are you talking about?! icon_eek.gif
    To the extent that the grade depends on mastery of material mastery should mean you know all the f'ing material.

    Now, for some subjects, where you're grading application of the material it's reasonable to have a wider range of problem difficulty, allowing someone to exceed basic requirements significantly, but those are a subset of courses in a given subject.

    (Personally, I'm a fan of a Pass/High-Pass system that simply denotes mastery of material with special note for people that showed exceptional aptitude of some sort. Anything less than basic mastery, who really cares, it just means you've been exposed to a subject, but still don't understand/know it. [Though an additional "low-pass" mark would also be reasonable. Harvard Law does it that way, incidentally.])
  • neosyllogy

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    Nov 14, 2010 8:05 PM GMT
    meninlove said Does anyone really think a person with a C average or lower or an I for incomplete would pass entrance exams into medical school? icon_rolleyes.gif



    This is the point though. If some pre-med student is really excited to take, for example, a course in neural computation or advanced physics, or the 'hard' math class they should be encouraged to do so! Fear that they might not do well keeps many (most, I'd suggest) from ever trying and discovering the extent of their own interests and aptitude.
    Instead, people take safe, easy courses. Sacrificing their own edification and actual competence for the sake of a voucher of competence. That's bad.
    This is to say nothing of the content-less focus on grades they come to class with. They're so worried about a poor mark I don't think many of them can even take the time to really try to absorb the point of most of the material.

    (This, granted, is more of a college level issue, but very important. The issue at the highschool level is more focused on getting people to keep working and learn the material, rather than giving up; which is excellent [the keep working part I meanicon_smile.gif].)
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    Nov 14, 2010 8:10 PM GMT
    neosyllogy said
    This is the point though. If some pre-med student is really excited to take, for example, a course in neural computation or advanced physics, or the 'hard' math class they should be encouraged to do so! Fear that they might not do well keeps many (most, I'd suggest) from ever trying.
    Instead, people take safe, easy courses. Sacrificing their own edification and actual competence for the sake of a voucher of competence. That's bad.


    Agreed. Even though I had all the AP credits to get by my major, I took more advanced physics, math and chemistry courses...and got B's and A-'s, instead of A's. Damn my presumption. Cost me a good GPA.

    What good did it do me? None...I've since forgotten all of it. icon_razz.gif
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    Nov 14, 2010 8:11 PM GMT
    makeumyne saidIn the education system here, instead of failing students, we mark them on lower and lower sets of criteria. That way they always go home to their parents with some sort of success on their reports which is psychologically better for them.

    The direct result of this is illiterate and innumerate adults who find it quite psychologically difficult to cope with the rest of their life.

    Our system doesn't work. Maybe an I instead of an F would work. It's a shame that we need to experiment on our kids.

    *GET OUT MY HEAD*
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    Nov 14, 2010 8:14 PM GMT
    I agree with you neosyllogy, very much so! It's nenslow's example that has me going icon_rolleyes.gif and even a icon_confused.gif

    -Doug


  • chris_dallas

    Posts: 340

    Nov 14, 2010 8:14 PM GMT
    haha this isnt a new thing growing up Fs didnt exist at my schools
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    Nov 14, 2010 8:20 PM GMT
    neosyllogy saidI actually think removing failing grades will help reverse grade inflation as it's easier to say, "no grade for you until you learn the material" than it is "I'm going to brand you as a failure and screw up future applications". It's also more relevant: I care about what some one knows more than whether they stumbled getting there.


    Agreed. Students need to see clearly that the work they put into their current class has a direct impact on how prepared they will be for their NEXT class. If you don't pay attention and do the work in Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1, you're going to be lost in all your high school science and math classes.
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    Nov 14, 2010 8:22 PM GMT
    Well if we're just going to give out a bunch of incompletes and give the people their either didn't bother to make an effort, or can't grasp the material, the time that the other people didn't get to get the recognition, let's just do this:

    When the kids are five, take a bunch of books and throw them at the kids and say 'understand all this before you die' and that's that. Similar idea.
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    Nov 14, 2010 8:24 PM GMT
    jomach saidI never understood how grades worked here anyway. To me, if I did half the work I should get a 50% and that shouldn't be failing, it should be a C, since half was correctly done.
    It's garbage that I can only miss 5 questions on a 50 question test to get an A, I've always hated the grading system


    Um, no. C does not mean "half right". C means "satisfactory". Getting 50% right is NOT satisfactory!

    The grades are not an end in themselves; their purpose is to show how prepared you are for what comes next -- whether it's the next class, or your eventual career. If you only understood half of the material, you are not adequately prepared, and the grades reflect that.
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    Nov 14, 2010 8:25 PM GMT
    MenschPress said

    Um, no. C does not mean "half right". C means "satisfactory". Getting 50% right is NOT satisfactory!

    The grades are not an end in themselves; their purpose is to show how prepared you are for what comes next -- whether it's the next class, or your eventual career. If you only understood half of the material, you are not adequately prepared, and the grades reflect that.


    Exactly. That's the whole reason that the grading system exists.
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    Nov 14, 2010 8:26 PM GMT
    UpperCanadian said
    jprichva said
    Caslon16000 saidGet off my lawn!

    Get your own material.


    Can I still shake my cane at them?

    Thats all you can do. It's not like you can catch them ... step, drag, step, drag .... ummmmm.....no, dont think so.