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Oak Creek Grading Practices: The Pros and Cons

Teachers, administrators and parents discussed a variety of grading practices in Oak Creek Monday night. Here's a recap of some of the most-discussed issues.

Discussions over grading practices and scales in Oak Creek will continue over the next several months, as disagreement between parents, teachers and school administrators is still evident.

Teachers and administrators presented an overview of new grading practices, some of which have been the subject of criticsim within the community, in a meeting Monday night.

School officials say the practices are designed to give a true indication of a student's achievement in any given class, as well as provide more consistency throughout Oak Creek High School and the district's two middle schools.

Some of the practices have drawn more attention than others. Here's a look at some of the arguments for and against those practices, drawn from information and presentations on the grading scale and comments from supporters and those who object to the changes.

Retaking tests. Under the new practices, students have ample opportunity to retake tests if they feel they can do better.

For: Members of a committee who spent more than a year researching these practices said students should get an opportunity to fully demonstrate they have learned the material and not be judged by a single test. If students know they can do better than what the test shows, they should get another chance to prove it.

It shouldn't matter when someone grasps the material: if a student has a full understanding of a class' concepts, their grade should reflect that. It also helps students who know the material but happen to be bad at taking tests.

Against: It's not clear exactly how many times a student is allowed to retake a test; teachers are still trying to determine how best to deal with this issue. Sometimes students won't come prepared at all knowing they will get a chance at a retake.

Also, retaking tests doesn't prepare children for the real world: in many workplaces and colleges, they won't get continued second chances. And people tend to learn more from their failures then their successes.

Homework. The main purpose of daily homework is "practice" and should have a minimal inclusion, if any, in final grades.

For: Homework is practicing skills that have been taught in class and shouldn't be indicative in grades. Students won't be able to stop taking homework seriously, because if they do, they won't have the ability to do well on quizzes and tests, where their performance counts.

Against: This practice does not prepare students well for life after high school, particularly in college, where homework assignments very much matter. It also is an indicator of students' effort, which should be part of the grade.

Zeros. The impact of zeros for work turned in should be reduced or mitigated.

For: A "zero" skews and distorts grades and doesn't give a true representation of academic achievement. Instead, teachers should give students an opportunity to complete missing assignments. In most cases, taking a zero shouldn't even be an option.

Against: Like with retaking tests, this practice may encourage students not to take their homework seriously and sends the wrong message about getting continual second chances.

Behavior. Any "non-academic" factors, like behavior, are dealt with separately.

For: Behavioral-type issues don't specifically relate to a student's knowledge of class material and thus shouldn't be part of the grade. They are handled separately between teachers and students, when a teacher will review progress and if necessary, the student's plan for improvement.

Against: This practice could unfairly punish students who behave, show up on time and generally do the right thing, yet have their grades handled the same as those who constantly misbehave.

Grading scales. Changing the grading scales was originally proposed so that the high school and both middle schools would be consistent. This is connected to the discussion, but also a little bit of a seperate issue.

The grading scale is the one aspect of this issue that has to be approved by the Oak Creek-Franklin School Board. The scale will remain status quo this school year and be revisited by the board before next school year. The grading practices, meanwhile, are in place.

Opinions conflict about whether Oak Creek's grading scale is in line with others in the area or is too strict. Some parents feel it's too strict and hurts students who are competing against others for college admission and scholarships. A student from a school with a more lenient grading scale will probably look better than an Oak Creek student, who would be "punished," parents argued.

Robert Blust, dean of admissions at Marquette University, countered at the meeting Monday that universities are aware that high schools use different grading scales. Therefore, many colleges use their own formulas when determining admission.

In addition, colleges also are generally more keen on class rank and ACT scores than GPA, and also look closely at course rigor and extra-curricular activities, he said.

OC neighbor October 24, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Another topic at the meeting was Class Rank. Significant time was spent explaining how some universities unweight and reweight GPA based on ciriculm and scale, which may level the field for OC students. Class Rank does not get compensated. Our current policy does not reward students for taking more challenging classes vs standard classes. Yes, they get a 1 pt bump when they take an AP class. But they are scored the same if the take Precalculus or if they take Algebra I. This does not accuarately compare OC students against each other. I feel that changes need to be made on the ranking system or remove the ranking altogether.
Connie Ploch October 24, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Grading should remain as is. Youth needs to be prepared as best as possible for their future and the real world as stated. Habits are formed by consistency, consistency comes from homework repeatedly taking a concept and challenging the student to learn the whole idea from different angles. Second chances are few and far between in the real world. If an architect makes a mistake on a plan and the building tumbles, there's no second chance to redo after damage is done. If a policeman arrests the wrong person for a crime, the innocent person's life is drastically affected and the criminal excapes the law. Oops, I made a mistake doesn't work. If a plumber fails to repair a problem, the customer is upset, still has the problem which could grow even bigger--you loose faith in a company, etc etc... Why would we not want to our youth to continue to strive for excellence, coach and support them to the best of our abilities, and to better prepare them for the future. . They ARE our future!
Terri October 24, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Connie, you stated this well and I agree with you 100%. Allowing students to retake tests is only going to be detrimental to students when they graduate and are out there in the real world.
Edward Yockey October 25, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Plain and simple you dumb down the system you dumb down our kids. I say raise the middle school grading to the high school level. My kids have been in the Oak Creek Schools. My wife and i expect them to do good so they have. You lower the expectations and our children and our society will go down hill.
Kris October 25, 2012 at 12:57 AM
This is Burmeister's excuses for our school's lower performance on the report cards compared to neighboring school districts. Is it just me, or is her job to improve the schools but what we keep hearing over and over is excuses? Why are we putting up with this mess? Sara Burmeister, superintendent of the Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District, said the report cards provide "more detail than we've ever received from the state before. This detail will be very helpful to us moving forward." Burmeister said the challenge in receiving the report cards in October means that schools have not had time to react before the current testing period that will result in new scores at the individual level.
SoccerMom October 25, 2012 at 01:16 PM
What so many people are missing is that the retake policy has been in place for a while in Oak Creek schools, that is not part of the change that the school board is looking at. If you look at other districts that out-preformed Oak Creek on the recent report cards, those districts do have policies for retakes. While homework is builds responsibility, it is still included in the grades, just not to the extent that it had been in the past, and again is not part of what the school board will be voting on. What the school board is looking at is raising the grading scale, mostly for middle school students. The changes at the high school level are minimal. The representative at the meeting that was from Marquette made it clear that a school sending their profile with is very helpful in evening the playing field for applicants. As far as the changes at the middle school level, it makes sense to keep it the same for students. Kids hav enough transitions between middle and high school and are often shocked that what was an A-, is B+ in high school. If we are giving ou students more options to prove their knowledge on the subject, why not raise the bar on middle school children' grades.

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