From the Editors: Lack of time limits grade accuracy

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Townsend Harris students are used to being able to relax the day they get their first marking period report cards. No anxious sweat or nerves accompanied your walk to receive your report card because the truth of the matter is, unless you truly did poorly in the first term, you will be receiving an S. It’s almost standard procedure for Townsend teachers that students who are somewhere within the 80 – 94 range of grades will get an S on their report cards. Most teachers don’t like to give out E’s, fearing that the student will either have an inflated view of their grades or that they won’t have anything to aspire to in the coming terms. It’s a difficult line to walk, and the recent decision to shift from letter grades to number grades comes with flaws and advantages.

The inherent idea to retire the letter grades in favor of numbers, as we have in every marking period, is a good one. It removes the almost casual nature of the first marking period, one that students may view as a time when they don’t have to try as hard. There shouldn’t be any reason that one marking period would mean less to a student. Teachers will most likely (or should most likely) already have numbers that they’ve calculated for that student that they are trying to convert to a neat, square letter.

The problem with this is the time factor. Technically, the first marking period is about five weeks long. But when you factor in any program changes, days off from school, or anything that disturbs a teaching schedule, it amounts to about three and a half weeks.

For some subjects, this is plenty of time to assign several assessments, tests, and graded homeworks to amount to a grade that is indicative of a student’s progress.

But there are courses that would have greater difficulty squeezing in enough assignments to accurately assess a student. Teachers and students alike now feel stressed to be producing enough graded material in time for them to hand their grades in. And this marking period is markedly shorter than the two that follow it (about ten days shorter), creating another trial for us all to go through.

While Townsend Harris should be making the steps for uniform grading all year round, the timing of our grading could use another look.

A quarter system, with two quarters per semester could ease the woes of cramming work into a short time frame, and allow for more frequent progress reports, which is essentially, what a report card is without all the fear attached.

We have plenty of options for assigning grades, and we don’t have to stop here.