Get a ‘C’ or fail: Timpview says farewell to ‘D’ grades

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    By Brooke Walker

    Students at Timpview High School in Provo are no longer able to put forth minimal effort to scrape by with a simple D grade.

    The school”s community council and improvement committee, with the support of Timpview faculty and administration, eliminated the grade at the beginning of this school year to increase student proficiency and raise competency levels among the students.

    Several other schools in the Provo district have used this grading tactic for years, and Timpview principal George Bayles said he thinks this will be a positive change.

    “We felt like there were a certain number of students who were not mastering the material,” Bayles said. “Unfortunately, those students will receive F”s, but this will allow us to identify who they are and provide them with the additional help they need to succeed and pass the course.”

    Timpview first implemented the change in the fall of 2003, so definite effects of the change are still unknown. In fall of 2002, Timpview distributed a total of 576 D”s. The number of F”s issued in 2003 did increase from the number issued in the previous year by 192, while the number of C”s increased by 62. Principal Bayles said he feels encouraged because these numbers indicate 322 students who formerly received D”s are now being absorbed somewhere in the C, B or A range.

    “Projecting from that, we thought that many students would raise their level of education and thus achieve more, accomplish more and get more out of the class. I find that I am giving fewer F”s this year,” said Jonathan Ostenson, Timpview English teacher and member of the school”s Improvement Committee.

    Ostenson said anecdotally he has seen increased achievement because of it.

    While the support in this grading procedure appears remotely positive, several educators feel the grading process, in and of itself, is inefficient.

    “The whole issue of grading is such a ridiculous proposal,” said Legrande Richards, associate professor of Educational Leadership and Foundations. “I wish they would drop more than just one. The question is why have we relied so much on the silly reductionistic number in the first place. I really think we ought to move towards portfolios and see what people are capable of doing. There has never been a way to prove that grading has anything reliable over time-that it predicts anything very well in terms of future performance.”

    Richards is presenting a lecture on grading history and proposals in the Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium today, Jan. 29, at 2:00 p.m.

    Bayles said he thinks the grade is not a true reflection and inherently is detrimental.

    “I do not feel the grading procedure is a good system at all,” Bayles said. “I don”t feel like you can take a student and ever declare that he is a finished product. Students need to be assessed on a continuum. Some people progress along that continuum at a more rapid way than others. But they are never a finished product. [People] continue to learn all of [their] life.”

    Many educators and administrators said they think a documented style of determining a student”s proficiency would be more effective. Several local elementary schools have adopted this style, but it is difficult to promote the idea because the current grading system suffices the practical nature of our society.

    “In our society a letter grade serves a definite purpose to help people get some kind of an idea of how the students are doing,” said Garn Coombs, former BYU professor of Teacher Education. “Maybe for the student this new proposal might help a little bit more, but it wouldn”t help all of the other reasons why grades are given. Evaluating the student is one of many reasons, and you would need to take into consideration all of the reasons.”

    One of the most complex consequences in incorporating a more documented style of grading is that of university application requirements and employment hiring procedure.

    “If we, as high schools, decide we are going to abandon the standard grading scale and go to a more standards-based assessment program, it can”t just be something one high school can stand up and do,” Ostenson said. “Idealistically, there are plenty of systems that are better than what we are doing. To look at it would be a long and pretty complex process.”

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