Issaquah High School Needs Consistent Teaching and Grading

Melanie Barry, Staff Writer

At Issaquah High School, two students who take the same class, have the same skill set, put in the same amount of effort, and retain the same amount of information are practically guaranteed to end the year with different grades. Too often, the difference is drastic.

While two students may be on the same page, their respective teachers never are, at least not to the extent that they should be. It has become a rarely questioned norm at Issaquah High that teachers, even if they teach the exact same class, do not teach or grade work as uniformly as possible.

The first external factor that changes a student’s academic performance is the specific subject matters that are taught in a class, and to what level of depth they are taught. For example, Teacher A covers the types of analysis, but for whatever reason, Teacher B does not. Or let us say both Teacher A and Teacher B cover the types of analysis, but Teacher A spends significantly more time on the topic than Teacher B; therefore students who have Teacher A are more likely to have a deeper, more detailed understanding of the subject. A student will be more or less knowledgeable/prepared than their counterpart who has a different teacher, because the two students were not exposed to the same material. Even if they were not tested on the material that was not covered, one student would still be at a disadvantage in the future.

The second factor is the method by which the subject is taught. For instance, both Teacher A and Teacher B cover the types of analysis and at the same level of depth, but Teacher A teaches the topic through a classic lecture, whereas Teacher B teaches the topic by having students read an article about it. In this situation, a student will be more or less engaged than their counterpart, simply because the two students were forced to learn differently, in ways that may or may not coincide with their learning styles.

The third factor is testing method – the way in which teachers test students’ understanding of the subject(s) they taught. Example 1: both Teacher A and B cover the types of analysis at the same level of depth, and they both use the same method to do so. However, Teacher A decides to conduct an in-class timed write as their testing method, while Teacher B decides to assign a one-thousand-word essay, written outside of class over the course of three weeks. Example 2: both Teacher A and B decide to assign an essay as their testing method, but the prompts are completely different. Example 3: Both Teacher A and B decide to assign an essay as their testing method and the prompts are the same, but Teacher A and B ask students to demonstrate different skills/knowledge. Example 4: Teacher A wants to prevent cheating among students, and therefore gives different prompts to different students and/or different class periods. A student can be more or less successful than their counterpart simply because they were tested differently, and/or on different subjects or different skills. Often times, which students are tested on which subjects/skills is decided randomly. Should a student’s grade really be dictated by the luck of the draw?

The final factor is the grading method. Example 1: Teacher A and Teacher B use the exact same testing method for all of their respective students, but Teacher A uses a different grading scale than Teacher B. Example 2: Teacher A and Teacher B use the exact same testing method for all of their respective students and they use the exact same grading scale, but Teacher A and Teacher B interpret their students’ work differently. A student can receive a better or worse score than their counterpart on an identical test response, simply because the two teachers grade differently.

I recognize that the individual teacher should have some say in the way they conduct the activity in their class. It is important that they teach and grade in a way that fits them as well. And of course, very little can be done about a teacher’s personality (as a teacher’s personality often has its own impacts on the performance of a student), at least from an administrative perspective. But we must look at the impact such extreme self-determination has on the student. There must be a middle ground that benefits both teachers and students.

There should be a new system put into place which minimizes the risk of unfair differentiation in students’ performances. Administration needs to do sufficient research and spend a significant amount of time with staff and representative students to create one detailed plan and schedule for each class that is taught by multiple teachers. Students have a right to be exposed to the same advantages and opportunities as their peers.