Sep 12, 2014

Arbitrator nixes Advanced Placement grading policy

The controversial practice of linking grades in Advanced Placement (AP®) classes to scores earned on AP exams given toward the end of the school year took a minor hit earlier this week.

A plan promising students good grades if they did well on AP’s was struck down by an arbitrator assigned to a grievance filed by the Dearborn (MI) Federation of Teachers.

The school board previously enacted a policy offering students earning a 4 or 5—the highest possible AP scores—an “A” for an Advanced Placement class.  Students with a 3 would get at least a “B.”  Grades would not be lowered under the policy.

Because AP scores are not usually provided until the second week of July, teachers would be required to go back into their grade books and retroactively make appropriate adjustments—long after school closed for the summer.  

The final grade appearing on the transcript would be as promised, and no one—including colleges reviewing these documents for admission—would know the difference between a student who did all the work to earn an A and a student who happened to test well.

The plan was originally recommended because Trustees for the school district felt uncomfortable with discrepancies between high schools and individual teachers on how students were graded in AP classes. 
And more importantly, the school board wanted to be able to smooth out the correlation between grades and performance on the exam.

“Grades and performance are tied, and we don’t want one to laugh at the other,” said Trustee Mary Lane during Monday’s school board meeting.

But according to the Dearborn Press & Guide, teachers argued that the policy limited what power they had in the classroom, such as assigning homework and requiring attendance.

The arbitrator ruling on the grievance sided with the teachers and nixed the board’s plans.

While the practice of retroactively changing grades for AP classes doesn’t appear to be the norm for most schools and school districts, there is evidence that these policies may be catching on.  And they are effectively making the AP program an even more important player in college admissions.

As the College Board continues to look the other way, teachers are changing grades to reflect performance on AP tests, giving additional boosts to GPA’s often already inflated by various “weighting” practices employed by schools and school districts.

And for colleges claiming to be more concerned with grades than performance on college entrance exams, these kinds of policies amount to game changers insofar as they return the focus to performance on a test—this time the AP.

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