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Controversy regarding P.E. grading system

After a strenuous cross-country season, then-sophomore Ella Miranz expected to sail through the remainder of her physical education course, but found herself struggling to succeed in the class. Now a junior, Miranz has been able to reflect on her sophomore year and is questioning the grading system.

P.E. teachers often hold athletes to a higher standard in terms of grading in an effort to keep a balance between the athletes and non-athletes. This has created a rift among student athletes as they fear their grades are based on the fact that they play sports, according to Miranz.

“I always tried my best in any P.E. run or activity,” Miranz said. “While completing a graded run, I was given points off, as my teacher believed I could have completed the run faster than I had. Regardless of the fact that I was trying my hardest, I was judged based on how I was an athlete and therefore expected to be one of the fastest in my class, which was not the case.”

While she acknowledges that grading students based on their physical abilities is difficult to assess, Miranz said that steps can be taken in order to create a more level playing field.

“Relative to the preconceived idea that P.E. teachers would have a bias toward student-athletes, it’s actually on the contrary,” Miranz said. “I think it’s important for teachers to establish a more level mindset toward grading student athletes and non-student-athletes.”

P.E. teacher Stacey Kofman said the department expects student athletes to be role models and perform better than their peers in fitness testing and graded assignments.

“We definitely hold them to a higher standard as far as their participation and their attitude in class, we want them to be leaders,” Kofman said.

Kofman said all student-athletes are expected to strive for the Viking standard: Times and scores set for overachieving students, primarily athletes.

“We hope that our student athletes are making the P.E. standard for fitness testing, but we really want all our athletes to hit the Viking standard for all our fitness standards and assessments, regardless of the sport they play,” Kofman said.

Junior Lulu Gaither, who plays both varsity lacrosse and water polo, believes it is unacceptable to have points deducted for not reaching the overwhelming goals set for athletes in P.E.

“I was in the last period of P.E. which is where the majority of athletes are put,” Gaither said. “We would often have to go above and beyond to reach an unattainable standard. Yet even though I would give my full effort, if I was unable to reach most of the preset athlete standards.”

Peter Diepenbrock, the head of the Paly P.E. department, said teachers are working toward creating a fair grading system for students and student athletes.

Staff observed that non-athletes don’t put in the time to improve their performance on athletic tests, so they decided to grade the performance as an incentive.

Diepenbrock said, “Maybe that would motivate them to try and improve throughout the year, as student athletes are always expected to improve.”

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