According to a report curated by Hanover Research for Palo Alto and Henry M. Gunn high schools, around 40 percent of all classes — and 77 percent of English-Language Arts classes — consider participation an important factor in determining students’ grades. Despite the prolificacy of this method of grading, it remains unstandardized and largely subjective — a fact that becomes especially concerning when considering that course alignment remains one of Paly’s educational departments’ high priorities.
The Campanile believes that these educational departments should consider standardizing participation grading along with general course alignment as one of their chief goals.
Methods of evaluation for participation currently vary by class, with some teachers choosing to implement a point system, where every instance of participation gains a point, and others simply deciding to assess it anecdotally at the end of each grading period. Both of these systems have their faults. A point system encourages students to constantly share unconstructive ideas that create a topical class discussion which fails to add to overall learning. On the other hand, subjective overall participation grades are often heavily influenced by favoritism and teachers’ personal biases towards styles of participation.
Considering these shortcomings, The Campanile believes that the Instructional Supervisors of each department should work closely with teachers to develop comprehensive standards for participation grading. These standards should include a requirement to pair the grade with comments and explanations that force each teacher to justify the grade. This would ensure that students participate more effectively and receive more objective evaluation.
One of the major flaws with grading based on participation is that it is inherently biased against introverts or soft-spoken students. Answering teacher-prompted questions in front of a class audience induces anxiety in many students. However, this is not to imply that these students should be sheltered and unchallenged — after all, the real world will not accommodate for these personality traits. That being said, systems of quiet self-reflection and collaboration have been proven to increase quality participation while including all students.
This type of standardization would be a relatively easy feat to accomplish, especially in departments such as History and Social Science, Math and Science, where participation is not as abundant a grading category. Additionally, the task would prove quite arguably more important than other alignment goals, such as the standardization of syllabi within courses.
Action must be taken to remedy this unregulated system of grading to further align courses and account for all types of students.