In Jay Mathew’s weekly column Class Struggle (an excellent regular read!) he looks at the policy of one of our local school systems (not the one I work for) to exclude from grades anything other than student work.

Expressly banned from consideration in the main course grade are the following factors, and I quote from guidelines helpfully supplied by the Montgomery County school system: "effort, participation, progress, attitude or behavior."

In some way I agree with the policy. Giving students higher grades based on how hard they tried or because they were behaved well in class only give them, their parents and the teachers who receive them in the next grade and inflated impression of their abilities. I disagree with eliminating these factors entirely. Very often I would use qualities like those listed to move the borderline student up one grade. This teacher from California says it very well.

"The dirty little secret about teaching is that it is an art as well as a science," said Rich Ingalls, who teaches AP history and AP government at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles. "Those who are advocating testing as the end all of education are those who believe that children are little machines that should be seen, tested, and not heard. . . . The points given for participation can change a close grade but cannot improve one beyond that which they have achieved through completing all types of written assignments. I know my subject, and I know my craft. Both combine to help my students achieve."

Considering the current testing-at-all-costs atmosphere in which we exist, it’s not hard to understand why the district is implementing their policy. School systems have been receiving a boatload of criticism when students get passing or even high grades in classes and then fail one or more of their standardized tests. To fix that they can either change the tests or change the grades. The later is easier.