Switch to Equity-Based Grading Draws Parental Backlash

Evan Poellinger | December 1, 2023
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Schools that have begun to implement so-called “Equity Grading” have come under fire from parents who support traditional standards-based grading. Among these schools, Dublin Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay area made the decision in 2022 to test doing away with standardized grading in favor of grading based upon “student mastery of material” in order to “improve equity by supporting students who might take a bit longer to learn.”

Parents in the school district, however, were decidedly less than pleased with the prospective change in grading. 

A Change.org petition with 1,625 signatures, as of this writing, described the proposed Equity Grading standards as “concepts based on idealism and completely devoid of empirical data.” The petition further alleged that the school district “hired the for-profit consulting firm Crescendo Group, to train teachers and aggressively implement the policies in the 2022-23 school year and failed to be transparent by not communicating about these changes with the community.”

Despite the alleged lack of empirical evidence of its efficacy, some teachers in the district still argued that the policy had merit. District Superintendent Chris Funk stated that he sought to implement the grading change to “address the inequities that he sees in who performs well in the current system” since he believed “students who get a low mark or neglect to turn in an assignment early in a term were often statistically doomed to fail.” However, another teacher who experienced grading standards similar to those employed in the Dublin Unified School District has disputed the system’s effectiveness. 

Related: North Carolina School Districts Begin Implementing Parents’ Bill of Rights

Cody Whitehouse, a social studies teacher at Wilson College Prep in Phoenix, noted that the exclusion of homework from students’ final grades as part of the new grading system led to students acting as if “homework no longer mattered at all.” As a result, Whitehouse argued that students missed out on “developing positive study habits and dependability.”

Despite being ultimately suspended by Dublin Unified School District’s school board in a 3-2 vote, similar grading systems are being implemented across the country, particularly in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Whether parents in these school districts will succeed in opposing Equity Grading as parents did in the Dublin Unified School District remains to be seen.

Here's video of the original presentation of the program back in May:



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