Fitts aims to modify Middle School grading system

Staff Illustrator Car '17

Staff Illustrator Car ’17

Director of Middle School Sean Fitts said during the first quarter that he hopes to reevaluate the current grading system for the Middle School. The Education Council, along with its grading subcommittee, are examining the purpose of grading and the consequences for students and teachers. This grading subcommittee, consisting of both teachers and administrators from across all departments, has been assessing grading trends in the past year. They had their first meeting Friday, Oct. 21 and plan to release their official opinion on the issue before winter break.

Fitts explained that the subcommittee will discuss whether grades motivate students, and more specifically, how grades can allow students to value learning to a greater extent. According to Fitts, students should be motivated by the desire to learn, rather than just grades themselves.

“There’s more to learning than grades,” Fitts said. “I’d rather change [the way we approach grading] to have it be more about learning.”

Although Fitts said he does not necessarily foresee a complete switch from letter grades, he explained that he wants the community ultimately to observe grades from a different perspective.

“The scale is already skewed towards negativity…What kind of a scale do we want to use that will allow teachers to be critical without having to justify every little thing?” Fitts said. 

Fitts said that he is looking for a system of critical feedback that promotes mastery of a subject rather than an environment where students feel the need to receive only A’s.

7th Grade Dean Nichole Gomez expanded on Fitts’s reservations about letter grades. She said that faculty is currently focusing on teaching students to do their “personal best,” rather than obsessing over receiving only A’s. Gomez is responsible for introducing the new students to the school, so her actions are especially crucial to how students regard grades.

“As a 7th Grade Dean, I see a lot of stress around the idea of getting As…and I don’t know where that comes from,” Gomez said.

This issue is not only apparent among middle schoolers, but also students in Upper School.

Jenna ’17 further attested to the fact that Marlborough students are too focused on receiving perfect grades.

“I often feel like the competitive environment sometimes undermines the learning experience as a whole,” Jenna said.

However, Catherine ’20 explained that sometimes this stress can motivate students to work harder.

“Knowing that there is pressure to get A’s, it helps me, but can sometimes can put us under a lot of stress,” she said.

Other topics the grading subcommittee will address include redos on assessments and extra credit. According to Fitts, extra credit that does not relate to the learning of the material itself should not be counted towards a student’s grade. On the other hand, redos are useful because they allow a student to gain a full understanding of the material before moving on to the next subject.