Inconsistent grade rounding policies leave students feeling cheated

Illustration by Gabriella Backus

Illustration by Gabriella Backus

Bailey Kirkeby, News Editor

In the final days of last semester, some students expressed frustration with teachers for their refusal to round grades that are .5 percent or less away from the next letter, resulting in lower letter grades.
According to Bear Creek Principal Hillary Harrell, Bear Creek does not have a schoolwide policy regarding grade rounding.
“When I got to this district, I looked at board policy for grading, and there’s not a whole lot of direction,” Harrell said. “It’s really the purview of the teacher.”
Harrell says that she rounded grades at .5 and higher when she was an English teacher. However, there are varying reasons why teachers decide whether or not to round grades.
“My personal system when I was a teacher was very assessment focused, and I did not have a ton of points in my grade book,” Harrell said. “For me, rounding up was a fairness issue as far as I was concerned.”
Other teachers say that students should get the grade that they earned.
“My gradebook is weighted… it’s not like quizzes are 90 percent of [a student’s] grade,” AP and CP Chemistry teacher Han Nguyen said. “If they’re at an 89.9 after I put in extra credit and their grade still doesn’t add up to 90, why should I raise the grade?”
Some students personally experienced the reality of having a high grade left unrounded and admit they felt cheated.
“I got boonked by Mr. Nguyen since he gave me an 89.99 and didn’t round my grade up,” junior Joseph Manivong said. “It feels especially bad since all of my other teachers would have rounded my grade without a second thought.”
Part of the problem might stem from Manivong’s interpretation of grades; teachers don’t give them, students earn them.
“A lot of kids — typically AP kids — feel entitled to a good grade just because they’re taking an AP class,” Nguyen said. “I don’t like participation trophies, and giving people a good grade even though they didn’t earn it is like handing them a participation trophy.”
Other students agree with supporting an individual teacher’s policy on grade rounding.
“My final grade [in AP Economics] was an 89.4, and [AP European History and AP Government and Economics teacher Jonathan] Clemons would have rounded it if it was an 89.5,” senior Gabriella Backus said. “I was kind of frustrated, but ultimately, I understand that there’s no point in begging because it’s a policy, and if he changes it for me, he has to change it for everyone.”
Harrell says that a schoolwide grading system might not be able to address the fairness issues regarding grade rounding due to the differing reasons that teachers give certain grades. Instead, she emphasizes the need for teachers to employ a consistent grading systems in their own classrooms.
“I just hope that teachers employ a fair system that is clear and transparent, and if there is a question from the student or the parent, I redirect them to the teacher,” Harrell said. “Hopefully, they can articulate why they gave [the student] the grade that they did.”

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