By Hannah Cho,
Most students at Davis High are settled in by the end of the first quarter, but many sophomores– especially those with rigorous Honors and/or AP classes– seem to struggle with new grading policies as they shift gears from junior high to high school.
The transition to high school can be rough; most junior high students rely on the curve as a method to raise their grade when they get bad scores as teachers are usually more lenient. High-schoolers get less of that extra boost because their grades rely solely on their performance.
Many students are overwhelmed by the increasing difficulty to get good grades.
“It’s hard to keep up when the material gets harder but teachers don’t curve,” sophomore Janine Tsai said.
However, some argue that curving is disadvantageous to students if most students get good scores on a test.
“It’s not fair that some students automatically get bad grades even if the whole class has mastery of the material,” sophomore Benjamin Skinner said.
Others hover in the middle, arguing that the curve should depend on the circumstances.
“If the class average is low but a good number of kids did well, curving isn’t fair, because kids who scored well just put in more time and effort,” sophomore Emily Cao said. “If everyone does bad, though, then it reflects that the test was too hard, not that kids didn’t try hard enough.”
Teachers have responded differently to students’ struggles to help them succeed while still pushing them to do their best.
Chemistry Honors and AP teacher David Van Muyden curves tests based on score distribution.
“I want to curve so it’s more reflective of general abilities of the class,” Van Muyden said.
English 10 Honors teacher Richard Ferguson has a different approach. He believes the decision to curve a test would depend on the subject. For example, an English essay– as opposed to a calculus test– would be more difficult to curve appropriately.
“I try to reduce the gap between successful and unsuccessful students without abandoning each end […] I don’t think curving does that,” Ferguson said.
Instead, when students perform poorly on one of his tests, he cancels the test and re-teaches the material.
Despite the disarray at the beginning of the year, most sophomores learn to accept new curving policies as they transition into higher grade levels.
Senior Daniel Chao thinks students should get used to teachers’ grading system.
“I don’t feel […] it’s our place as students to tell teachers how to do their job,” Chao said.
Junior Sam Sands agrees that students will adjust to the new grading policies. He thinks that “[curving] is indicative of a disconnect between the teacher and a student.”
In college, the definition of curving changes completely, because it means a student can get drastically different letter grades with the same score, depending on how well the class does.
Encouraging students to accept the new curving system can help high schoolers prepare for this change. Mark Raschid, chair of the UC Davis Admissions and Enrollment committee, states that grading in universities depends on the professor.
“It’s inappropriate under the UC system to impose a requirement on how to grade exams,” Raschid said. “Students need to recognize that [college] is a whole new ball game.”