Equal opportunities in the classroom

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Despite what we hope, students will often measure their success against that of their peers. Combine this with being at Townsend Harris, where the desperation to get into selective colleges is all but tattooed on our foreheads, and competition can raise both grades and stress levels. However, the chance for every student to get an equal opportunity for a higher grade is hindered when collaterals, extra credit, and tests are not consistent among classes. So why not level the playing field?

Usually having a different teacher for mandatory classes like AP World or physics would entail varying assignments. Some teachers will allow for a more lenient project so students can get an easy 100 while others will have their students work for it. But if the school implements standardized collateral assignments and extra credit opportunities, and a consistent test format for all classes, students will have a fair and equal opportunity to get the highest grade possible. After all, grades should be decided by who worked the hardest and who is the brightest, not by which teacher a student has.

Collaterals can be worth up to 10% of your grade and, depending on the class or teacher, they can also be counted as a test grade. Unfortunately (or rather luckily for some of you), I’ve had teachers who never even graded them. This incongruity is furthered when the assignment can come either in the form of an intense research project or a simple, lovely poem about your commute to school. If we are all mandated to take the same classes, then we should be given the same collaterals and they should impact our grades the same way, regardless of who the teacher is. If one chemistry teachers assigns a research project and presentation as a collateral, then all chemistry teachers should be doing the same.

Along with collaterals, extra credit opportunities should be uniform for all. Some were lucky enough to have that one teacher who gave more extra credit than actual assignments. Such favorable chances give some students an unfair advantage while depriving others who actually work hard for their grades. Those extra itty bitty five points on that one project and the three extra points on last month’s test eventually add up to inflated grades for certain students. Teachers shouldn’t give their classes extra credit on a test unless the other teachers of the same subject give it as well.

Take home tests are good news but not when they’re given to other students and not to you. AP World and AP US History are mandatory classes where the same material is taught but our ability to remember it vary from student to student. It’s frustrating when you learn that you stayed up all night to get an 88 while your friend got an easy hundred because her teacher gave a take-home test. If one teacher gives a take-home test, then all students should be given that same take-home test.

Grades are often taken as a sign for telling who worked hard and who didn’t. But can we really take grades at face value when there are so many inconsistencies among classes? Our opportunities shouldn’t vary from teacher to teacher. If extra credit and collaterals are to be issued then they should be the same for everyone, or not given at all.