Eye of the Tiger
Grade bump offers benefits to students and gives STAR testing much needed valueWednesday, May 02, 2012 By Aarif Masani
Roseville High School recently implemented a new policy of offering grade bumps to students who perform well on the annual California Standards Tests (CST’s). While some argue that this incentive is unfair and manipulative, these critics often overlook the very obvious and clear advantages this program has. A grade incentive such as this is, in fact, beneficial to the RHS student body in nearly every respect and is long overdue. The current system is tragically flawed. California requires students to sit through hours of boring standardized tests and for what? What do we, as students, gain from STAR testing? Absolutely nothing. By providing a grade incentive to do well on the STAR test, RHS is finally giving meaning to the countless hours of test-taking that students are subjected to every year. Now, students actually have something to gain. By doing well on tests that are required by law anyways, we can improve our chances of passing – or acing – our classes. It’s a win-win. The trade-off is simple. Students who score ‘proficient’ or higher on a CST earn a one-third letter grade increase in the respective class. There is no punishment, no catch, no drawbacks – no negative affects whatsoever. The incentive program doesn’t require students to put effort into the STAR tests and doesn’t hurt students’ grades. It makes sense, too. If a student can prove mastery in Algebra 2 by scoring well on the Algebra 2 CST, shouldn’t that student deserve to pass the class? A grade incentive, therefore, helps students achieve their ultimate goal of graduating without repeating classes. (Incidentally, the class that prevents the most seniors from graduating is Algebra 2—something to think about) From a larger perspective, the incentive program will help our school as a whole by inevitably raising our schoolwide API score, which is used to judge our proficiency as an educational institution. A low API score could result in state mandated consequences for our school, translating to a stronger, more rigorous emphasis on core subjects and as a result, more work for students. By raising our API score, RHS can reestablish itself as Roseville’s premier educational institution while avoiding other negative consequences. Some students claim that the CST’s shouldn’t affect their grades because the tests are so different from what actually is taught in the classroom. While there is some merit to this contention (for example, we write essays in English class but not on the English CST), the STAR tests are nonetheless designed to reflect and evaluate our proficiency in the subject. Whether or not the CST’s are similar to in-class tests is entirely irrelevant, because Algebra 2 is still Algebra 2, regardless of if it’s on a statewide standardized test or on a homework assignment. If a student proves he is proficient in Algebra 2, shouldn’t he pass the class? That’s the whole point of grades: to prove proficiency in a particular subject. Other students point out that the school shouldn’t offer a grade bump because it encourages students to slack off in class and that these students should put effort into the CST’s out of their own internal motivation, without the encouragement of artificially inflated grades. Allow me to clarify something: slackers are slackers. If a student wants to slack off in class, he or she won’t wait for an excuse, i.e. a grade bump, to do so. In reality, then, the incentive doesn’t encourage laziness. It only provides a well-deserved reward to hard-working students. Furthermore, while the ‘grade bump’ applies to everyone who scores well on the CST’s, it only truly affects students who will actually move up a letter grade (from a B+ to an A-, for example). The number of students who fit this category—a B+ in the second quarter grading period of the respective class of the CST that he/she scored proficient on—isn’t a lot. This ‘grade bump’ will only help those who are on the border between letter grades and are willing to put in the extra effort on the CST. There’s no ‘artificial inflation’ of grades here. In any case, the grade incentive isn’t really about numbers. It’s about giving students what they deserve: a reward for hours of hard work and grueling tests. As a senior, I sincerely regret that this program wasn’t implemented sooner - better late than never.