Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
( AP file photo)
Editorial: A good grading system measures mastery of subjects

System should measure learning.

First Published May 07 2014 03:44 pm • Last Updated May 07 2014 04:43 pm

Every adult remembers classmates from those early school years who skipped class and whose behavior earned them disapproving looks and influenced their grades negatively despite their intelligence and high test scores.

And then there were the kids who loved school and excelled by doing extra-credit work, racking up perfect attendance records and offering to help teachers after school.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Some of them grew up to become teachers themselves, moved up the administration ladder and continued a system that confuses good behavior with academic competence. They tend to believe part of a school’s responsibility is to imbue students with respect for rules and authority, and they are right about that.

But abiding by rules of conduct is not the same thing as showing proficiency in physics, in biology or literature.

A state task force is recommending a new grading system — optional at first — that would end the practice of knocking down a student’s grade in a class because of something like poor attendance, even when the student is demonstrating proficiency in the subject being taught.

It’s hard for those steeped in the old-school tradition of incorporating "citizenship" into a course grade to imagine allowing a kid who cuts class but does well on tests to get an A. It’s called "competency-based grading," and it makes a lot of sense.

Box Elder School District is easing parents and teachers into such a system by introducing it in elementary schools, where students no longer get letter grades, but a numerical rating of 1, 2, 3 or 4. Those who earn a 3 are doing academic work at the appropriate level. And only competency in the subject is considered.

Schools award separate citizenship grades that recognize those who do extra credit, attend class regularly or go the extra mile in other ways — or don’t.

And under a similar reform proposed statewide, students who do not earn a 3 or a letter grade indicating competency would not advance to the next grade level until they learn the material. Older students would have to retake a course until they can show competence.

It’s a good idea because a grade could not be influenced — or at least not as much — by subjective criteria. Only extra study, not extra credit or cleaning erasers after school , would get you a better grade. It would encourage intelligent students who don’t "fit in" and would help identify each student’s real strengths and weaknesses. And isn’t that what school should be about?

story continues below
story continues below

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.