Participation grades not necessary

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by Josh Bannon
Eagle Editorial Board

Students in math dean Loretta Deballion’s advanced and regular pre-calculus classes are all too familiar with the phrase “That’s a fiver,” and know what it entails.

For those who have not taken pre-cal, the phrase refers to the subtraction of five points from a participation test grade that starts at a 100 each semester.

Points can be subtracted for anything from talking or sleeping in class to not turning in homework. Points can also be subtracted globally from the class when the majority of students are acting out of line.

“We are not asking students to do anything except what they should be doing anyway,” Deballion said. “It is an incentive to do homework and behave.”

On the first days of school, students are  advised that it is better to do just one question for homework each night and subsequently fail the homework portion of the semester grade rather than not turn it in and lose points in participation.

Not only is this grade unnecessary, it is also anti-productive and fundamentally contradicts the nature of a math class. Some may argue that the grade is an easy hundred, but in many cases it is not.

It is rare for a student in high school to go through the day without nodding off during a class, and we all remember times at which it was physically impossible to stay awake during a class, even if we wanted to – not even to mention the rarity of a class composed predominantly of seniors that goes a whole semester with no cases of rowdiness.

The point of a math class is that the students in it learn math. Accordingly, if the students learn and excel at math, their skills should be reflected in their grade. Having a participation test grade that can hurt such a student just does not make sense and contradicts the purpose of a math class. This grade belongs in a class in which the purpose is to teach students how to behave properly.

Being in a college preparatory school, students should be able to recognize the consequences of their own actions and adjust them as such if it brings their grade down. Part of the process of a school such as this is maturing as a person and preparing for the years ahead where we will be on our own.

The grade restricts this maturing process because we cannot get the points back. Any mistakes we make are permanently reflected inincrements subtracted from a test grade. We can realize the consequences of not doing homework, but we can not then implement changes and reap the fruits of changing bad habits to good.

Participation grades should not be able to have so much effect on our grades, and it is arguable that they are completely redundant in the first place. However, until the unlikely occurrence of the grade’s removal, all we can do is hope and drink copious amounts of caffeine. Stay strong my friends.

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