The dreaded F.
Most parents are alarmed by that letter on a child’s report card. But they won’t see it this year in Milwaukee’s K-8 and elementary schools, as the district does away with traditional letter grades in favor of a new scoring system that separates academic progress from social skills.
In doing so, Milwaukee Public Schools joins a growing number of districts that are eliminating traditional letter grades or untethering student behaviors from academic marks.
The changes — which can include no longer docking points from academic grades for late assignments and offering students multiple chances to submit their work — are a big shift for some teachers, and a head-scratcher for many parents.
“I think (district administrators) want letter grades to go away because they want to blur the line of failing students,” said Sara Andrea-Neill, a parent in the Kenosha Unified School District.
I think you’ve got in one, Sara Andrea-Neill. The new system will give students grades of AD (advanced), PR (proficient), BA (basic) and MI (minimal, but he’s totally not failing so for the love of God please don’t beat your kid). They will also get a separate feedback on “effort” of 1-4.
This is not that unusual. My wife’s high school in Australia used a similar system. However, I think the critics are missing something important. It seems to me that the larger problem is that the grading system continues the trend of emphasizing competence and proficiency over excellence. Notice what is lost. F becomes MI; D becomes BA, C become PR, B becomes AD and A … just disappears. There’s no longer a way to distinguish between kids who are above average and those who are truly exceptional.
I also don’t like that the system interferes with the teacher’s management of their classes by not letting them demand assignments on time. Anyone who has taught at any level above teaching the dog to fetch knows that deadlines are critical to get students to finish assignments and to preserve your sanity. You can’t have students turning in assignment willy-nilly and maintain a consistent pace in class.