Teacher Aids, effective this school year, must now receive letter grades instead of a pass or fail. Some teachers, however, who must evaluate their TAs with specific letter grades are baffled by the criteria. What exactly determines a C grade for a TA from a B grade? Is there a way to standardize that?
Previously regarded as a pass or fail class that students often take to boost their GPA, being a Teacher Aid is now essentially treated the same as being a Peer Tutor. Before, the difference between being a TA and a Peer Tutor, in terms of grades, was that a TA’s pass or fail was not counted in calculating a student’s GPA, whereas the letter grade earned by a Peer Tutor was.
“Board policy explicitly says that all students at all courses will get letter grades,” Principal Bill Atterberry said. “Pass or fail courses were implemented in the first place because of intervention courses. But the rule became bent more than was allowable and, as a result, included a class that should not have been pass or fail in the first place.”
Also, Atterberry said that implementing the letter grades was in part to curb valedictorian aspirants from manipulating their courses to give themselves a GPA boost without having to take an honors or AP class.
Now, with a letter grade, the grade that a TA receives counts toward their weighted and unweighted GPA. For some, it might lower their GPA. For students who are striving for honors, this change is disconcerting.
“It definitely brought down my GPA, but it wasn’t that bad of a drop,” senior Danielle Espinosa, TA for biology teacher Kim Forbis, said.
But for other students, the letter grade for their efforts is an incentive.
“At first [Sra. Rossete] gave me a pass, but then it changed into an A, and I like it,” senior MinhThuy Nguyen, TA for Spanish teacher Alma Rossete, said.
Some teachers, on the other hand, do not know how to translate the work done by their TA into a letter grade because there is no common standard to follow.
“I understand the value of grading student performance beyond just attendance, but because of the variety of tasks a student can do based on the teacher, there can be no common rubric,” AP US History teacher Beth Oesterman said.
Oesterman favors the pass or fail system because she says that there is no value behind the letter grade given to students for their fulfilment of tasks as TAs.
Other elective teachers are strongly against the letter grade system for TAs because they say it will draw more students to those classes instead of theirs.
“It’s a slap in the face to the electives that are already struggling because students will flock to their favorite teacher to get an easy A,” art teacher Shan Swoverland said.
Swoverland also said that there is a big difference between the work that TAs do and the work that Peer Tutors do and for that reason, TAs should continue to be graded on the pass or fail system because it does not make sense otherwise.
“This is an example of yet another action that was not well thought out and forced down our throats,” Swoverland said.