Reasonable or Regrettable: Students and Staff Speak Their Minds on the Success of the New Grading Policy

Ingrid Schmitz, Staff Writer

A change in students grades seemed to be the product of a wave of a fairy godmother’s magic wand. Only, these new grades weren’t students’ dreams coming true. 

What was the real cause of this phenomenon? The culprit was a change in the grading policy. 

According to administration, this change, entering ones in place of incomplete grades, was very effective in motivating students to complete their missing work and get their grades back up. 

Per this modificationincompletes or Iwere entered into the gradebook as 1%’s to show students how their missing assignments would affect their average. Students must complete 80% of their work to earn credit for a class, and previously, a student’s grade wouldn’t reflect the number of assignments they were missing. 

Reaching the 80% mark was also necessary if a student wished to exempt the final summative for that class, which was a change from past years, when exempting final exams was tied to attendance.   

If students don’t reach the 80% mark, however, they couldn’t get credit for the class or exempt finalsThis is why administrators decided to have the incompletes turned into 1%’s, but did the policy work? 

Principal Ashley Agans said overall, the policy seemed to have achieved the desired effect.  

“Students and parents who had been unresponsive prior to that policy became responsive when they saw their grades drop,” she said. 

The numbers substantiate the policy as well. On Nov16, there was a total of 1,345 incomplete grades among all students, Agans said. By noon on Wednesday, that number had dropped to 647 incomplete grades. Agans believes the number will continue to drop before the Friday deadline. 

She said she thinks the hardest part for virtual students during this time is that “they have never been taught how to organize themselves and motivate themselves.” Even though this is a “basic executive functioning skill,” it is a skill set that students have not been taught. Teachers usually write important dates on the board and remind students to write due dates in their agendas, but now “a lot of that burden has been placed on students,” Agans said.  

Agans thinks that, considering the special and sometimes unfair circumstances of the semester, the incompletes were a good idea because they gave students grace. However, as a “principal and an educator,” she still fears “the number of students we aren’t reaching.” 

English Department Chair Michelle Rice said the change in the grading policy was very effective because the incompletes gave students and parents a “false sense of security.” Turning the Is into 1%’s was a “wake up call” for students and their parents. 

Rice thinks instead of keeping the incompletes, the grading policy should start to transition back to normal. She said she thinks “the end of the pandemic is upon us” and there should be “higher expectations” for students. 

Of the current grading policy, Rice said, I think the kids feel overloaded and overwhelmed in every subject.” With only having to do 80% of their work and not counting attendance, there is little to no accountability for students, she said.  

“I think the biggest effect on students is that they feel they don’t have to do their work, keep putting it off, scramble at the end, and then students are just trying to get to the 80% mark and end up not doing the best quality work,” Rice said. 

Math Department Chair Nancy Barker agrees with Rice that the change was successful.  

“People who have had incompletes for a long time, as soon as the ones went in, they contacted me very quickly,” she said. “They didn’t realize they had the Is or didn’t know it could hurt them.” 

Barker said she thinks the grading policy should continue to be carried out in the future to ensure students are completing their work.  

“I think students need to recognize not doing their work is detrimental to their learning, not just their grade,” she said. “The grade is one thing, but their learning is what’s most important, and when students disengage, they’re not learning.” 

This is especially true in math, which Barker said is a “cumulative subject,” meaning units in math build on each other, so if students didn’t do their work at the beginning of the year, it was much harder for them to catch up. 

Students expressed a variety of opinions about the grading policy, as well. 

Freshman John Watkins is in full support of the new grading policy. 

I feel like the best way is to just fail the kids,” he said. “In my science class, some of the kids don’t do the work, and the teacher is always bugging them to take the tests. If you don’t do the work, you don’t deserve to pass.” 

He chalks up the sudden increase in missing work to the COVID-19 pandemic and the many modifications made to the grading policy since the start of school to help students get their work in, 

When we were virtual, there was no teacher looking over [a student’s] shoulder telling them to do work and it was really easy to get away with not doing work because they could say they had connectivity issues,” Watkins said. “There are also more summatives, so kids think if they don’t do one, it won’t make that big of a difference, because of how many more summatives we have. 

Ultimately, Watkins said he thought the new grading policy was a good idea and one that, if carried out in the future, will fix the problem of missing work. 

Sophomore Alyx Humayra has the opposite view as Watkins. 

“I just feel like this isn’t the best way to achieve the goal [administrators are] trying to achieve,” she said. 

As for her alternative solution, Humayra, a strong believer in positive affirmations, said, Instead of putting a one in the gradebook, try to work with the student to try to recover and turn in their missing work. I think it’s better to work with the student than away from them.” 

Humayra thinks most students do understand the effect an incomplete will have on their grade and that is not the reason behind the surge in missing work. Instead, she thinks students are simply not motivated to do their work. 

One of the reasons Humayra is strongly against the new grading policy is that it hits close to home. 

It’s definitely affected me,” she said. “Me personally, it stressed me out a little bit, but I already had a plan for getting my work in. For a lot of my friends though, who are already stressed about their work, the new grading policy really freaked them out.” 

Even though she stays on top of her work, junior Sara Bock doesn’t feel that the new grading policy is the right course of action. 

I feel like the incompletes were a good idea in the whole pandemic thing. But I feel like turning them into ones and changing the grades puts unnecessary stress on students because their grades could be super high and then their grade just drops,” she said. 

However, Bock does think that the new policy is effective. She said she thought when students saw their grades drop, it would “shock them,” but ultimately, it would serve as a “good reminder.” 

Bock herself prefers a subtler reminder, and based on the absence of incompletes among her grades, it seems to be working for her. 

“In one of my classes, my teacher gives us a bunch of days to make up work,” she said. “She tells us the total number of incompletes the class has and gives us incomplete makeup days and tells us to check Infinite Campus.” 

Whether or not students and teachers are in favor of the grading policy, it seems to have proven effective in reaching its goal of getting students to complete their missing work.