An editorial by Andrew Thompson ‘19
During my four years at Brother Rice, my fellow seniors and I enjoyed the beautiful grading scale of 93%-100% as an A for non-STEM classes, such as English and history, and 90%-100% as an A for STEM classes, such as math and science. In the 2018-2019 school year, Brother Rice students were stripped of this luxury.
There are many factors one must consider before making a rash conclusion whether this decision is beneficial or harmful to both the school and the students.
Should a STEM course (math and science) grade be of equal value to a non-STEM (English, history and theology) grade or of greater value? Does the difficulty of the grading scale boost the value of a Brother Rice A over the A of another school with an easier grading scale?
Math has factors, imaginary numbers, derivatives and so many hard concepts to understand. Theology has Bible stories and movie reflections. Math has homework almost every night. Theology has a paper every full moon. Should theology and math be compared and graded on the same playing field? Reasonably not. Theology is easier than math; therefore, it should be graded harder than math. However, there is another angle one must look at before valuing one grade over another.
Math and science are often thought to be harder than non-STEM courses. Many believe this is because the concepts and problems presented in these STEM course are harder to comprehend and apply compared to subjects like English, history, and theology. While this may be true in some cases, on the 90%-100% scale, math and science teachers had the capability to make and grade their tests and homework assignments harder because their scale allowed for more stringent grading.
So, has the grading scale always been skewed to equal out in the end?
Should the value of grades in one class equal another, or should differing grade scales be used to compensate for difficulty?
Associate Principal Mrs. Van Assen, who made the decision to eliminate the 90%-100% scale along with Principal Mr. Alberts, said, “You (teachers) can adapt the way you grade for that bell curve. You can be harder, you can be easier. Nothing really changed; we are all just on the same page now.”
When the grade scale adjustment was announced to the teachers, Mrs. Van Assen said, “There were no arguments (from teachers); no one put up a fit. None. Not one. In fact, I got applause.”
Whether you think the grading scale adjustment is fair or not, it has affected the letter grades of many students earning the same percentage value.
Senior Anthony Arquilla said, “I am not a fan of the new grading scale because I am getting the same scores for my math and science classes that I have gotten for the last three years, but they are now C’s instead of B’s.”
This story is relatable to many students; however, there is one minor error many students are not understanding or are uninformed about.
This is not a new grading scale.
The published grading scale in the handbook and the annual school profile report, sent to all colleges from Brother Rice, has always been advertised as 93%-100%.
Head of the counseling department Mr. Creed said, “It is not a change in grade scale. It has always been what is posted. It is not a posted grade change.”
This is the source of all confusion.
Colleges and universities have always known Brother Rice’s grading scale to be 93%-100%. The 90%-100% was technically an unofficial grading scale used by Brother Rice in STEM courses, and advertised to colleges as a 93%-100% A.
Does a Brother Rice A now hold more value than it once did? Technically, no. It has always held the same value. Brother Rice is and always will be a high quality education appreciated and recognized by colleges and universities. The only difference now is the A earned in the classroom is equal to the A printed on one’s transcript.
Upon hearing this, math teacher Mr. Bergstedt said, “So, in other words, we’ve stopped bending the truth and we’ve made our practice match what our publicity says? Isn’t that something that goes into the lines of integrity?”
Brother Rice’s grading became more transparent to everyone through this grading scale adjustment. With a new administration, changes are bound to happen, and for many change is hard.
Mrs. Van Assen said, “We are looking at changing a lot of things for the grading scale next year.”
Whether one views this grading scale adjustment as fair or not, it is clear that Brother Rice has made a change to represent the quality Edmund Rice Christian Brothers Education that prepares young men for a prosperous life after high school.