WARREN, NJ – The Warren Township Board of Education discussed grading practices across all grade levels and the standards for the middle school honor roll at its meeting this week.
A majority of the board agreed to task Superintendent Tami Crader with conducting research on the topic of whether an honor roll benefits a school, as well as the consistency in grading practices.
Board member James Sena said that about 80 percent of the students at Warren Middle School are on either the honor roll or the high honor roll.
To qualify for the high honor roll, a student must achieve grades of not less than an A- in all subjects and to qualify for honor roll, a student must achieve grades in all subjects of not less than a B-.
“You sit there and say this is a motivating device, but if 80 percent of kids are on the honor roll, I question whether or not it is really motivating,” said Sena. “Is an 80 or an 85 an honored mark?”
A few of the board members agreed. Kathy Helewa said that an 80 doesn’t seem to match the “shining brighter everyday” goal.
“I think recognizing hard work of students and recognizing those kids who are really high performing is important. I am more concerned about getting to what is underneath,” said Crader. “Are the grading practices consistent, do teachers give extra credit, or are you testing something differently?”
“Sometimes two teachers have the same grade level, but in terms of their grading practices, one time allowing a student an opportunity and one time not, so getting at those practices I think is important before you start the honor roll discussion, because I am not sure you will get at what you want to get at by just changing the criteria,” Crader continued.
On the topic of consistency in grading, board member Lisa DiMaggio, who is also an educator, said, “I don’t know how you ever get teachers to have that. ”
“You’d have to make them robots. There are personal relationships that develop between teachers and students because of personality. There will always be a lot of gray,” she added.
Board member Gregory Steier agreed that the “honor role should be a recognition of excellence,” and said, “I think we face the basic questions of how do we judge the rigor of the curriculum. I know there are always talks of the risk of grading inflation, but if the issue was really the curriculum wasn’t rigorous enough, then, yes, you can easily see why so many people are so high up.”
Board president Mildred Spiller questioned whether schools needed an honor roll and cited high performing districts like Ridgewood that don’t have honor rolls.
“What do you have it for, so that you can go around town bragging that your child is straight A? Well, your child and you know what the score is. Your teacher knows what the score is."
She also said that, according to research she has done, there seems to be a trend in education to do away with grading all together.
Spiller said,“I am not saying that you are going to do this now, but I think we should think about this. Where do we want to go with grading, period?"
After a lengthy debate, board members asked Crader to conduct research on grading practices, criteria, and curriculum rigor, before making a decision.
Crader said, “I think it is good that we will study this, and I will try to get it done by January or February."
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