PTA Members Claim "Grade Inflation" in Baldwin-Whitehall
Notes from the B-W Council of PTA’s Nov. 3 meeting.
Are Baldwin-Whitehall teachers “inflating” students’ grades?
That’s the concern of some members of the Baldwin-Whitehall Council of PTA, who brought that potential issue to the attention of Dr. John D. Wilkinson, the B-W School District’s assistant superintendent of secondary education, at a PTA meeting on Thursday morning.
Several members of the PTA group, which includes PTA/PTSA units from W.R. Paynter Elementary School, Baldwin High School and J.E. Harrison Middle School, engaged Wilkinson on Thursday in a conversation about perceived inconsistencies in the way that B-W teachers determine course grades.
The conversation was similar to the one that PTA members had with numerous school officials during October’s PTA meeting in which the matter of dispute stemmed from the district-wide practice of grading students based on 90-percent formal coursework and 10-percent informal coursework. In particular, what was bothering many members of the PTA, each of whom have children enrolled in district schools, during the October meeting is that teachers have the ability to individually choose what is considered formal and what is considered informal, as well as how to give tests and how to grade homework.
During Thursday’s November meeting, the analysis went deeper, with PTA member Amy Murray suggesting that some B-W teachers may be engaging in “grade inflation.”
Murray said that she has seen examples of students’ nine-week assessment grades being incongruent with students’ final grades, a differentiation that could be attributed to additional, non-assessment materials being a factor. Murray called some of those materials “fluff.”
Murray provided a hypothetical example to Wilkinson of a teacher’s students all having A grades in his or her class despite those students all having F’s on nine-week assessment tests.
“Maybe (that teacher) said, ‘Bring in a can of Coke, and you get 100 bonus points,’” Murray said.
Wilkinson responded by saying that he has the ability to see what types of assignments that teachers are assigning grades for and that, if he saw a situation like Murray’s hypothetical one, he would “absolutely have a discussion with that teacher.”
“Is someone (a teacher) still going to sneak past (me) and say, ‘OK, you wore a Baldwin sweatshirt today(, so here are bonus points),’?” Wilkinson asked. “Yes. Am I going to know that? No.
“But, if I find out, I will hold them (those teachers) accountable. I will ask them why they did that …
“Yes, I am aware that it goes on. I’m looking for it. I don’t have an answer for it yet, but I believe that these common assessment (tests)—nine weeks, midterm, the third nine weeks, the final—is a step in the right direction. And it gives me actual data.
“I can look at four kids, and if they have ‘A, A, A’ and they get ‘F’ on the common assessment, then I will review with the department chair and with the whole department and ask, ‘Why?’”
Wilkinson asked the PTA group as a whole at Thursday’s meeting, “Do we think that grade inflation is rampant in the secondary (level in Baldwin-Whitehall)?”
Multiple PTA members answered, “Yes,” and one said, “Absolutely.”
The secondary level includes J.E. Harrison Middle and Baldwin High schools.
Wilkinson disagreed with the practice being rampant.
“Honestly, do I think it’s rampant?” he asked. “Do I think that every single person who brings in a pop can gets a point or who wears a Steelers shirt on Steelers Day gets a point? … Rampant? I’m going to say, ‘No.’
“I’m going to disagree with you all.”
However, Wilkinson stressed that he will work to ensure that grades are not superficially inflated.
For clarification’s sake, the Baldwin-Whitehall PTA as a whole was not expressing the same collective opinion. Only some individual members were.
December Meeting Canceled
The B-W Council of PTA’s December meeting, originally set for Dec. 1, has been canceled. The next B-W PTA meeting will be held on Jan. 5 at its normal time and place—9:30 a.m. in Room 322 of Baldwin High.