By Mahgul Mansoor
This September brought about many changes in Tech’s grading policy, such as the introduction of a quarter-based calendar and, perhaps the most controversial change, the annualization of students’ averages. This new policy eliminates the “clean slate” formerly offered with the new Spring term, making students’ averages at the end of the year reflective of their entire year’s work.
Skedula, however, is unable to support this cumulative grading policy. Once the first semester ended, Skedula reset each class’s grades. This lack of foresight on the part of the administration, has made the annualization of averages seemingly impossible.
In order to keep a similar cumulative grading policy despite the technological mishap, final grades on Skedula will be calculated using 50% of the fall term’s final grade and 50% of the spring term’s grades.
Staff and students alike are concerned as to how the new formula will work out. These concerns are mainly caused by confusion over the policy, and range from how fair the policy is going to be to how Skedula will translate grades considering the changes.
Many students, like Emma Costa ’14, were not anticipating a shift in the grading policy. “Before I started the school year, I assumed the grading policy would remain the same. I didn’t think that the old policy had any faults, so I didn’t see any reason to change it,” she said.
She is ambivalent about the change, as she sees the benefits and the drawbacks of the new policy.
“While on one hand, I miss the fresh start that we used to get after each term, the new policy of the cumulative system has a lot of advantages. For one, it makes each individual assignment worth less in the total GPA, so if you mess up on an exam, you can still redeem yourself.”
Costa also feels that not having a fresh start might actually motivate students to work harder in the fall term.
She also understands that there can be negative aspects to the new policy. “I do sympathize, however, with students who have gone through a tough time and their grades suffered as a result. I do believe those students might be most affected by this policy because their academic troubles will be following them to the second term, and that is not fair.”
Sienna Sheckler ‘13 expressed an entirely different sentiment than Costa. She finds the policy to be unfair and stressful.
“I feel like the administration makes decisions that hurt students for no rational reason. I think it is going to hurt people who did poorly the first term because one bad grade stays with you for the whole year.”
Her disdain for the policy is increased by the lack of communication between the administration and its students. “Tech does a pretty bad job of informing its students,” she commented.
Sumyia Razzak ’13 sympathizes with those who would benefit from a clean slate when starting the spring term. “This would have affected me last year a lot because my grades were really bad the first term and I looked forward to getting the fresh start during the spring term.”
She also explained her frustration with the many changes the administration has enacted in the past year.
“Our year [the Class of 2013] especially has experienced the most changes, we get treated like lab rats and it has come to the point where it’s annoying.”
Physics teacher Michael Sikoutris feels that averaging 50% of students’ fall final average (40% for Regents courses) into the second term is, “a quick fix for something that could not be fixed in time by the people who operate Skedula/PupilPath.”
According to Sikoutris, some teachers who felt the policy was unclear in the beginning now understand it. Although he believes that the new system is fair, he admitted that there might be a problem with it.
“By including the ‘fall final average’ category,” he said, “student GPAs appear to be lower than normal.” This shouldn’t cause much worry, because “as teachers enter more graded assignments into Skedula, the grades should normalize and by the fourth marking period, they should reflect more or less an accurate student GPA.”