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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.

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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