Inconsistent Grading Policies at Pali


Dylan Tzung, Features Editor

Teachers at Pali have the freedom to create grading policies specific to their own classes, and make independent decisions about what letter grades to give to each student. While certain grading policies may benefit some students, others are left feeling unjustly treated and unfairly graded by their respective teachers.

Senior Gabi Feingold said she felt the negative effects of grading policy freedom at Pali when she had Victor Dorff for precalculus in 10th grade.

Dorff declined to be interviewed, but Feingold explained that none of the students had an accurate class percentage because “there were no points in the system…other than your tests.”

According to Feingold, because of the lack of a percentage system, in order to determine a student’s final grade, Dorff would simply ask each student what letter grade they think they deserved. However, the absolute decision about the grades was up to him, and the input from his students was not really taken into account.

In addition to having an unconventional method for determining letter grades, Feingold said that Dorff’s “grading policy was really strict… and the tests were graded in a very difficult way.”

“I think that the class itself really stressed all of us out,” Feingold stated. “We were all constantly stressing about each test because… there was nothing else to really pad your grade.”

In line with Feingold’s explanation of how Dorff’s grading policy adversely impacted her and her classmates, AP Human Geography and Honors World History teacher April Foster also has a policy that she says “sounds harsh”, but believes it ultimately benefits her students.

She doesn’t offer extra credit, doesn’t accept late work, doesn’t round and only gives students a week after the original day to makeup a test. However, Foster said she does offer optional credit —  voluntary assignments which count just as much as anything else in the gradebook.

Foster said that her strict policy benefits her students because it “stops them from procrastination and ensures that they are up to date with the current curriculum.” She uses the same policy for all of her classes.

Foster says that the lengthy waiting list for AP Human Geography — “120 students” — validates her strict grading policy, because it shows that her class is widely desired by Pali’s student body.

“Most students who switch out of AP Euro or World request my class, so [my grading policy] really does benefit the students,” Foster said.

In Foster’s opinion, “The teacher knows best how to grade his or her students as long as [the teacher is] following school protocol.” Furthermore, she does not believe that teachers should have rules about how they have to grade students.

“I think that adaptation in the real world is a real important skill to have,” Foster said, citing why she doesn’t want a universal grading policy at Pali. “People in the world are different, and when students grow up and have careers, they will have bosses with different policies.”

Sophomore Aliya Govindraj disagrees with Foster. “I feel like like there is a bias toward some students versus others, and if there was a universal grading policy, teachers wouldn’t be able to act on those biases,” she stated.

“In honors classes, if you are between a D and a C, you should be able to round up,” Govindraj said. “And, if you are in an AP class and you are between a B and an A, you should be able to round up.”

In regards to her experience with Dorff, Feingold agreed with Govindraj. “I do think that this administration should be required to approve the way that teachers grade their students,” she said. “Otherwise, we are going to end up with situations… in which people aren’t getting graded fairly.”

Similar to Feingold, Govindraj has had a harsh experience with a teacher’s grading policy. She was on the border between earning a B and an A, but the teacher’s decision did not go her way.

Not all students have shared Govindraj and Feingold’s experiences with seemingly unfair grading policies, though. After benefitting from AP World History teacher Steve Burr’s grading policy, sophomore Riley Gutheim believes that Pali shouldn’t have a ubiquitous standard for issuing grades. “Each class is based on different material, and the teacher should be able to determine the grading scale in order to help their students become successful,” she said.

“On the other hand, I do think that all teachers should be required to offer extra credit or makeup work to improve your grade,” Gutheim added. “If you are willing to put in the effort to achieve a certain grade, you should be able to get help.”

Last semester, Gutheim enrolled in her first college-level class, AP World History. She found that the unit tests were “super hard” and became nervous about her ultimate grade in the class. However, she took advantage of the extra-credit opportunities that were offered, such as lunch-time videos, and was able to boost her grade significantly.

Gutheim’s belief that grading policies should serve the purpose of bolstering a students’ class percentages, is furthered by an anonymous Pali teacher who expressed the convoluted nature of grading policies while explaining their opinion on establishing a school-wide grading policy.

“I think it should be standardized per type of class and level, so it’s less unfair if you have one teacher versus another,” the teacher said. “But, at the same time, I believe my system to be correct. So, if it meant that I had to change what works for my class to match something else, I don’t know if I would like that system.”

In this teacher’s grading policy, grades are rounded, and they attempt to “take the sting out of tests” by giving assignments such as online quizzes that boost students’ overall test category.

For this particular teacher, grades should be rounded up “because our school doesn’t report pluses and minuses.” However, if the teacher had a way of differentiating between a B plus student and a B student, they would prefer to do that.

Some students believe that the discretion between the grading policies of different teachers leaves them vulnerable to biases, whereas others believe that every class needs to have its own grading policy in order to maximize their success and prepare them for life after high school.

Similarly, teachers at Pali disagree over whether or not a set of standard rules about grading should be established. As the teacher who requested anonymity explained, every teacher regards their grading policy as the most beneficial for their students, and some may be reluctant to being forced to change their policies.

Ultimately, while students have had various experiences with grading policies, the power to determine letter grades remains in the hands of Pali’s teachers.