Mastery scale system revised for first marking period of spring semester

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Students once again received letter grades in the first report card of the spring semester for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. However, according to Assistant Principal Veronica York, the values of these letters have changed.

In the fall, the Master Scale grade system was divided into three categories; an 85+ average would earn an ME (exceeding standards), 65-85% earned an MT (meets standards) and a failing grade would be represented by an MA (below standards). This spring semester, the system expanded to incorporate 5 values, in which ME is now equivalent to a 95% and above, MA to an 85%-94% range, MT to a 75%-84% range, MP to a 65%-74% range and MB to a 55% and below.

“The first marking period in the fall it [the system] was really helpful because [the teachers] don’t know you at all six weeks into school, and we’re talking about giving grades when you’ve seen the student in your classroom, maybe 30 times, for 50 minutes and giving grades at that point is difficult,” Ms. York explained. “At this point, we know it’s not difficult, it’s not exactly the same, but we set up our school academic policy so that if we were gonna do it the first marking period in the fall, we’re gonna do it the first marking period in the spring.” Due to this technicality, the administration instituted a range of letter grades with more specific values.

“I, for one, feel an improvement,” said junior Angelina Jimenez. “It’s kind of nice to see how well you’re actually doing, because last time it was like ‘you’re doing ok’ but like you couldn’t really see what that meant.”

Latin teacher Christopher Amanna shared this opinion, saying that “It shows the kids that are really way above mastery and really gives them that or it tells parents and them that they’ve achieved this high level.”

On the other hand, many students appreciated the vagueness of the previous grading system, pointing out that it relieves some of the stress that accompanies the end of a marking period. “One of the good things about starting a new semester is that everything is reset, so all of our grades are temporary and we have a lot of time to improve them, said sophomore Leonardo Rodriguez. “I was disappointed when I found out about the new system because the old one put less pressure on me to do well immediately in the first marking period, which I found made it easier for me to transition into the school year in the fall.”

Parent teacher conference is coming up soon so it would really benefit a lot of people if the grades were written in a range rather than a specific, especially since parents might be looking at them,” added sophomore Ripa Begum.  

Others took issue with both letter grade systems, as they do not allow students to value their performance at their own discretion. “Whether you are able to meet standards or exceed standards, having such statements printed on paper could hurt you and make you doubt your worth. A number is a number, but a statement that comes out of a letter grade establishes your abilities with greater emphasis,” explained sophomore Shabab Ahmed.  

Nevertheless, physics teacher David Stern pointed out that changing the way grades are recorded in the first marking period can improve their accuracy and potentially benefit students; “At the start of the semester there may not yet have been enough assignments to give you a good picture of how the student’s doing at that moment because, given that we’re limited in the number of tests we can give in a certain time period one assessment could  have a very large weight on your grade and what if you just happened to take that assessment on a day that you were having an off day, or you were sick? And that that should weigh so heavily on your grade… I don’t think that paints the best picture.”

Report cards were distributed on Tuesday, March 19th.