Like many Americans, I have been riveted to my TV the past week or so as Olympians showcase their hard work and talent. The stand-out in my mind is Gabby Douglas, the sixteen-year-old American who won gold in the team and individual all-around, making history.
A few days later, the individual competitions in gymnastics began, so Gabby had the chance to win gold yet again on the uneven bars and the balance beam. Unfortunately, Gabby made a big mistake on the uneven bars (well, according to the commentators, it was a big mistake) and she fell off the balance beam. No gold for Gabby in these events.
Which leads me to grading.
My sophomore English students are required by Oklahoma law to take the End-Of-Instruction(EOI) exam for English II at the end of each school year. They are required to pass it in order to get their high school degree. In fact, 40% of my school’s Academic Performance Index (API) score (which is used to calculate how much funding we receive from the state) is based on how all the sophomores perform on the English II EOI.
My Pre-AP students historically have performed very well on this exam, but as the state increases the cut scores year after year, effectively making it harder and harder to obtain a satisfactory score, we will encounter challenges.
So my question is: Is it fair to base a student’s eligibility for graduation on a single test on a single day? (Actually, the EOI takes 2 days–1 for the multiple choice items and 1 for the essay response, which only counts for 9% of the overall grade, a shameful fact I won’t get into today.)
One day, Gabby Douglas was on. Another day she was off.
Gold. No gold. Not even a place on the podium.
As Gabby herself said,
“I tried to finish as strongly as I could, but some days you either have it or you don’t.”