Some things in life are a tough sell. Try telling people that the economy is showing signs of a comeback and you will receive a sneer and a snicker. Attempt to explain that a fixed rate mortgage is more beneficial than an adjustable rate mortgage in the long term, and you may receive a fish-eyed stare. And finally, argue with a hard-nosed old-school educator that you should not give students a grade lower than a 50% even if a student’s grade warrants it. To some, this equates to a declaration of war.
But maybe a suspension of disbelief is in order. As an adult, I live under the policy of “work hard and reap the benefits. If I do not work, I deserve to get nothing.” But should said policy be the same for somebody who is 12 years old? Or should second chances be provided?
Early in the school year, my principal bounced an idea off her staff: What if we made the lowest grade one can receive on a test, assignment, or project a 50%? A casual glance around the room invited looks of absolute derision; some long-time teachers looked as if they were served a spicy mustard lemon sandwich. But upon reflection, there are benefits to the idea, particularly for younger students who cannot grasp the potentially catastrophic results of an absolute zero.
1.) A Zero is Painful. But How Painful is it Really?
Let’s take a fictitious student named Sandra. She is a decent student on the honor roll. She has taken three tests, all of which she receives a 95%. Her next test is an absolute nightmare. She forgets everything she studied. Or maybe Mom and Dad were fighting again, providing her no peace in which to study. Or maybe she is sick with a nasty sinus infection. She receives her test back and gets a zero. Assuming the four grades are averaged together, Sandra has gone from a 95% average, all the way down to a 72%. Ouch. Even if she takes seven more tests after this big letdown, and scores a 95% on each of them, she would not have enough to bring her grade back up to an A.
2.) But What About Just Dropping the Lowest Grade?
Dropping the lowest grade can assist with our hypothetical Sandra example. But what about a student who just has a miserable 1st marking quarter? If Carl has a 32% average for the first marking quarter, he already knows his chances of making a heroic comeback the rest of the year remain slim. Imagine being told at ten years old that you will probably fail for the school year… and it’s only the month of November? If I were told something similar, such as “Mr. Kreusch, you will only receive a paycheck for the first nine week period,” would I try as hard as an educator?
3.) An “F” is Still an “F”
In theory, to receive an “A” grade, one must get a final averaged score between 90-100 at my school. 80-89 is a “B” grade, 70-79 a “C” and so forth. There may be some variation in each grading system, but the clear cut rule in most schools, public or private, is similar: If you fall within a certain small bracket, you will receive a particular grade. But then, usually at a grade of 60 or 64, there is a large gaping chasm. An eternal abyss known as the “F” score. Whereas most grading brackets are ten points (sometimes less) the “F” score is more obnoxious than the Energizer bunny: It keeps going, and going, and going…down. Minimizing the drop to a 50% allows a student to live another day. It is still an “F.” It still stings. A student will still have to forge ahead on his or her next attempt and try much harder and a lesson is still learned. And at the same time, a final average is not given blunt force trauma of an insanely low grade like a 12%.
The other day my wife and I were driving to a local sports bar when she had a startling realization: She had forgotten to pay her credit card bill before the due date. It stinks to mess up at any age. But at very least she will not be severely punished due to her isolated case of carelessness. Indeed, there will be a fine, a mere slap on the wrist. Her card will not be cut and the finger of lifelong failure will not be pointing her way. The society we live in is about second chances and safety nets. Perhaps it is only fair to afford the same privileges to our younger members in a learning environment as well.
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