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PTA Members Claim "Grade Inflation" in Baldwin-Whitehall

Notes from the B-W Council of PTA’s Nov. 3 meeting.

“Grade Inflation”

Are Baldwin-Whitehall teachers “inflating” students’ grades? 

That’s the concern of some members of the , who brought that potential issue to the attention of Dr. John D. Wilkinson, the ’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 ,  and , 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  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.

Embarrassed whitehall resident November 04, 2011 at 10:54 AM
i do not believe that this "grade inflation" exists, at least not at Harrison Middle School. That is an insult to the teachers, and quite frankly, if there are teachers that do this, I am insulted for the hard working students. My son has always been a high honors student and was shooting for highest honors this year.When faced with getting a B this 9 weeks (88%) in one of his classes he went to the teacher and asked what he could do to bring the grade up and was told nothing. So here is a kid willing to do extra credit for a couple extra points and was told NO.....and yes he has baldwin and steelers shirts and hoodies, even a geometry shirt to try to butter up the to the teacher all in fun and was still shot down. So he is getting the grade he earned and not one point extra......
BWMOM3 November 04, 2011 at 02:08 PM
I agree with the last comment. My daughter also attends Harrison Middle School and is a very good student. She also approached a teacher with my urging for extra-credit in advanced math and was told there is no extra-credit. Maybe the teachers that they are mentioning need to called out individually. I do not beleive this is a district wide practice, but perhaps a small handful of teachers that need to be redirected by their superiors on how to handle grading procedures.
BW mama November 04, 2011 at 05:59 PM
I third this motion. I have two children at Harrison, both of whom do well. I see their homework and occasionally follow their progress on Skyward. I have never second guessed a grade they've recieved. Their grades have always been congruent with their performance.
Sandra November 04, 2011 at 07:02 PM
My daughter also attends Harrison and I noticed for her 10%, it is based on homework and other projects. I think the students should have to put in some type of effort and work for their grade. I also monitor her progress and assignments on Skyward and have never noticed that she had to bring in a can of pop or wear a certain shirt for a grade. I also don't think an "F" student will get an "A", if that is only 10% of their grade.
Billee November 04, 2011 at 08:38 PM
I think many hearts are heavy these days - Let each one of us test our own work, so that our reason for pride may be in what we do and not what in our neighbor does. Teach each of us to bear our own fair load. Taken from an article on Galations
Robert Edward Healy, III November 07, 2011 at 03:12 PM
ML, I deleted your comment because you hinted at violence by a PTA member. I hope that you understand. I re-posted the rest of your comment here: "I don't have a child in the school but do agree with the first four posts. Heavens! Imagine letting TEACHERS decide how to give tests and how to grade homework. (all sarcasm intended!) This really does sound like someone (Murray?) with a grudge taking some bits and pieces out of context and trying to ruin someone's career. The kind of thing you see on those LIfetime movies, that get out of control. ... (DELETED) ... I'm sure if the ringleaders were asked they'd say that THEIR child didn't get INFLATED grades, just everyone else. If BW has ANY incompetent teachers, then it's the job of the administration to weed those out, but to be very careful to act only on documented observation/facts, not a witch hunt based on what "Maybe (that teacher) said" If there is factual proof of some wrong doing, then the PA tenure law will most certainly allow for dismissal if the charges are serious enough. Who observes and rates the teaches in BW? Certainly not the PTA."
Robert Edward Healy, III November 07, 2011 at 03:13 PM
Please feel free to keep commenting, ML. Just be careful.
Robert Edward Healy, III November 16, 2011 at 06:38 PM
For clarification's sake, the Baldwin-Whitehall PTA as a whole was not expressing the same collective opinion. Only some individual members were.
Cristy Stipetic November 16, 2011 at 10:10 PM
I think it is awful that a group that includes teachers (the T in PTA or PTSA), would essentially "throw the teachers under the bus" in a meeting that is 1. on the record (meeting minutes) and 2. has a journalist present to put this information out to not only BW Patch readers but anyone else who may come across it. (the article comes up 8th on a google search for Baldwin Whitehall teachers) It reflects poorly on the district as a whole, and quite frankly if I were a teacher at either school I would not support the PTA in anyway. I am just not sure a Council meeting was the right forum to bring this subject up.
Billee November 17, 2011 at 02:06 PM
A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly. Proverbs 15 13 -14

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