What makes a grade?


Jasper Kipp, artist

Abby Christensen, news writer

While some may approach a life-changing test such as the ACT with jittery hands and butterflies in their stomach, Terry Coggan, senior, did not. He walked up to take the ACT collected and confident, and sat down feeling ready. He knew he was a good test taker, and he thought his teachers at KHS had prepared him well for standardized tests, including the ACT.

“Specifically on the ACT, it felt like a lot of the content we had gone over in class,” Coggan said.

However, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, many schools in the St. Louis area feel like the way grades are calculated does not sufficiently prepare students for taking standardized tests. Districts such as Rockwood, Parkway and Pattonville are changing their grading systems to better equip students for these tests and allow them to better retain information. This includes placing more emphasis on tests than homework and allowing retakes on multiple assignments and tests.

Mike Gavin, freshman class principal, feels there’s always room for improvement in the grading system, but KHS does an adequate job at preparing students.

“If you look at how our students are performing on tests, whether it’s EOC’s or ACT’s, we’re outperforming the state,” Gavin said.

He also said the way a grade is formulated depends on the teacher and subject. Nonetheless, Gavin said as a school, KHS is trying to clarify what should make up a grade.  

“We’ve been engaged as a school for a long time around having conversations around what does a grade represent, what should be involved in a grade and what is an ‘A’,” Gavin said.

Gina Woodard, health and P.E. teacher, feels that an ‘A’ should be based off complete mastery of the subject. The grade should reflect what students know, and she thinks tests and quizzes are typically the best way to assess that information.

“If you’re not proving that you really understand and know, and can analyze and do something with that information, you shouldn’t have an ‘A’ in any class,” Woodard said.

Chelsy Middleton, senior, disagrees, saying tests are not always the best option for assessing a student’s knowledge. She thinks some students are better test takers than others, and even if a student knows the material well, they may not necessarily do well on a test. She also thinks changing the way KHS sets up grades would not have much of an impact and the type of student a person is would still be the main deciding factor for their grade.

“It depends on how focused the student is,” Middleton said. “Something could work for one person but not the other. Everybody is different.”

Gavin agrees the system of grading will never be perfect, because representing the amount a student learns with a number or letter will never be flawless. Regardless, he recognizes that there’s always room to improve.

“Are there ways we can get better?” Gavin asked. “Are there ways we can do a better job at educating, or pushing some of our students? Absolutely.”