Portland schools consider ban on zeroes: Promoting equitable grading practices

02:27 29.08.2023

In a controversial move, Portland Public Schools in Oregon is considering implementing new "equitable grading practices" that could potentially allow students to get away with cheating and not completing assignments. These proposed changes would include new grading structures, the elimination of grading homework, not giving failing grades for incomplete work or cheating, and not grading for non-academic factors such as behavior, participation, and effort.

The initiative, which was initially implemented in some schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to address "inequalities in access to curriculum and instruction." However, critics argue that this move demonstrates a "soft bigotry of low expectations" and will ultimately harm students by not holding them accountable for their actions and decisions.

Jonathan Butcher, an education fellow at the Heritage Foundation, voiced his concerns about the potential consequences of these grading practices. He argued that passing students onto the next grade without requiring them to show proficiency in their assigned work would have long-lasting negative effects on their educational journey. Butcher further criticized the district's approach, highlighting the low scores in reading and math on national comparisons following the pandemic.

The equitable grading practices, which are currently being refined, are expected to be implemented district-wide by 2025. The focus of these practices will shift towards demonstrations of proficiency rather than rewarding students for simply "playing the school game." The framework for these practices draws inspiration from Joe Feldman's book "Grading for Equity" and suggests various guidelines, including not giving students zeros, adopting a 0-4 scale instead of the traditional 0-100 scale, giving more weight to recent performances, allowing retakes, and developing rubrics.

The initiative aims to standardize grading practices across all schools within the district, as the non-unified implementation during the pandemic led to confusion among students and families. The focus is on basing grades on valid evidence and knowledge, rather than on factors that could be influenced by a teacher's implicit bias or a student's environment.

The proposed bias-resident practices include the use of summative assessments, not grading homework or including it in final grades, not penalizing late work, excluding attendance, effort, attitude, or behavior in grade calculations, and providing alternative consequences for cheating instead of assigning zeroes.

The goals of this plan are to assess the current grading practices in different schools, define the equitable grading practices, develop professional development opportunities for staff, and implement the practices in high schools and middle schools.

Critics argue that the handout for these practices uses "catchphrases from the woke lexicon" like "implicit bias" and "culturally affirming." They claim that these terms are difficult to define and lack research-backed evidence supporting their effectiveness.

At present, Portland Public Schools has not yet responded to requests for comment on these proposed grading changes. As the debate continues, it remains to be seen how these equitable grading practices will impact the educational landscape in Portland.

/ Tuesday, August 29, 2023, 2:27 AM /

themes:  Oregon  Maine

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