By Dara Levy
For the first time, WHS faculty used a new method of inputting final marking period grades, utilizing the Grade Portal feature of Genesis as the first marking period came to a close.
The grading structure is different from in other years, because previously teachers did their grading in one program, but submitted final grades through Cimple, however now all of the grading is done through parent-accessed Genesis, according to Vice Principal Mr. Jeremy Davies.
With the old programs, teachers rounded grades based on their own grading models, and then manually inputted a letter grade into Cimple. Through the online Grade Portal, teachers submit a numerical grade for the marking period, and the system then rounds that number to the nearest whole number before converting in to the appropriate letter grade.
According to Math Teacher Mr. Louis De Angelo, a concern of many teachers and students is that the rounded grades are used to calculate semester and final year grades. Any marking period average ending in a .4 or lower will be automatically rounded down for determining final grades, and any grade ending in a .5 or higher will be rounded up.
Said De Angelo: "It is mathematically possible that...the use of the rounded numbers in calculating overall grades would provide a different final letter grade than if the decimal values were used as in the past. It is unlikely...but it is possible for at least some students somewhere to be affected."
Davies said that he realizes the impact this will have on some students’ average grades, and that while it is only tenths of points, the points do matter. He added that there is some faculty frustration with the fact that Genesis does not have a tenths place for final grades. An additional concern brought up by some faculty members is that the online Grade Portal is causing students to be hypersensitive to numbers and grades as opposed to learning.
However, Davies said: "Overall, the faculty is pretty happy with [the new grade system].... The grade entry is very easy, and they appreciate that."
According to Principal Mr. Peter Renwick, the administration is aware of the rounding problem, and has already placed a formal request with Genesis to change the program. Davies said that the administration hopes the change will happen soon, but there is no telling when it will take place. If the system changes occur, it will only impact grades going forward, not already submitted first marking period grades. Genesis refused to comment on the issue.
Teachers who still feel that a student deserves a higher grade still have the ability to override grades and round up. Davies said that teachers appreciate having the autonomy to still do that.
With every individual assignment grade now published online, Davies said it "feels awkward for teachers to make changes [to averages], but it’s really the same process as before."
De Angelo said, "When I first heard about how we would have to go about overriding grades, I thought it could be confusing, but…I found the process to actually be very simple to do."
Junior Alex Jeffrey said, "I think that teachers will be less likely to [manually] round, in that they have the parents watching them so much [via the Grade Portal]."
The new grade system also allows teachers to input personalized comments online in addition to the preexisting list of number-coded comments. De Angelo said that a personalized comment section is useful for allowing teachers to clarify ideas and avoid misinterpretations.
De Angelo said: "Teachers have always had the ability to clearly lay out whether or not they would round grades, and students and parents have always had the ability to ask about any particular grade, request a grade sheet, etc." He said that the Portal makes the information easier to access, but the overall grade process remains the same.
Jeffrey said: "[The comments] will make teacher-student relationships a lot more honest.... But it’s another thing for teachers and students to disagree on, which is the last thing our high school needed."