Most students who only answer half of a test’s questions correctly get a grade of ‘D’ and students who don’t take the test or just sign their name, get an ‘F’. A Minnesota Middle School has decided that isn’t fair and will no longer give grades of ‘F.’
Sunrise Park Middle is a public school in the large suburb of White Bear Lake, MN with 829 students enrolled in grades 6-8. According to data prepared by U.S. News and World Report, 59% of Sunrise Park Middle School students scored at or above the proficient level for math, and 64% scored at or above that level for reading.
The school’s minority student enrollment is 36% and there are 19 students for every teacher.
Sunrise Park Middle School Principal Christina Pierre and Associate Principal Norman Bell explained how they will grade tests and projects this year. The new grading system does away with the failing ‘F’ grade. The lowest grade a student at their middle school will receive this year will be an “I,” whether or not the assignment was even turned in. The administrators share their reasoning with parents in a video.
In her video presentation, Principal Pierre asks what a child’s test average should be if they received a “B”, “C” and an “I.” Under the old grading system, an “I” was equal to zero points, so the child’s average for the three tests would be a “D.” Pierre opined that was not fair because two of the three grades were passing so the child’s average should be a passing grade. Under her school’s new policy, the “I” would equal a grade of 50, which would improve the above example child’s average to become a grade of “D.” In her video, Pierre described the “D” as a passing grade.
Students get a further break by being given a 10-day window to retake any test, quiz or project they received a poor grade on. Not all parents are fans of the newly announced grading policy.
Rebekah Bradfield, a parent and candidate for the White Bear Lake School Board, told The Minnesota Sun she was informed the process is called “equitable grading.” Bradfield told the Sun she learned about the grading change from her daughter’s language arts teacher. An email exchange between Bradfield and her daughter’s teacher contains an explanation that the new grading system is supposed to be more equitable.
A press release for the White Bear Lake Area School District gives some background about Superintendent of Schools Dr. Wayne Kazmierczak.
“Grading can be one of the largest areas in which systemic racism and inequities are perpetuated. Dr. Kazmierczak and WBLAS believe grades should be a measure of what a student knows and has mastered in a given course,” according to the release.
Bradfield told The Sun, “I believe this will cause a decrease in motivation and work ethic as there is little incentive to do the work. I was already frustrated last year when assignments that received less than 60% showed an ‘I’ for incomplete even if it was turned in.”
Kazmierczak said, in the release, “”Grading should not be a behavior punishment and should not be a measure of how well a student can survive stress at home.” The same sentiments were echoed in the video shared by Pierre and Bell.
“Under Dr. Kazmierczak’s leadership and in line with the district’s strategic plan and commitment to eliminating systemic racism, the district began tackling grading disparities a year ago when they dramatically changed their grading practices.”