Formative, Summative, and the Ensuing Petition

A petition about the new grading system is attracting a swell of attention across the district.

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photo by Julia Poppa

The impact of the new grading system varies depending on individual courses, which many see as a problem.

At the beginning of this school year, North Allegheny announced a brand new grading system for high school classes. Divided among “summative” (tests and projects) and “formative” (classwork and homework) assignments at a 70/30 ratio, the idea was to limit student stress during a challenging time. According to some, however, the effect has been just the opposite.

With COVID-19 decimating the regularities of the school year, many students see the new system as yet another expectation that has been altered. In response, NA students Gaurav Nayak, Kerem Yasar, Darsh Mahadevia, Hamza Bokhari, Vishaal Komaragiri, and Aditya Mallepalli created a petition on change.org.  At the time of this article’s publication, nearly 3,000 members of the North Allegheny community have signed, and the number continues to grow.

Nayak, a sophomore at NAI and the lead creator of the petition, has been impressed by its success in the community thus far.  

“When we originally made the petition, we thought only some students would sign it,” Nayak said, “but we were really shocked when 2,500 students and parents signed our petition. This made us feel like we could voice our opinions and be heard.” 

When we originally made the petition, we thought only some students would sign it, but we were really shocked when 2,500 students and parents signed our petition.”

— Gaurav Nayak, sophomore

The student creators are a combination of hybrid and NACA students, according to Nayak. They said they believe that students who are not strong test-takers have found it harder to succeed.

However, some students, including NASH senior Austin Drenevich, see no problem with the new policy.

“Realistically, it has not affected my grade in any way,” Drenevich said. “It actually makes it easier for Honors and AP classes because teachers who normally only assign tests have to make 30% of their grade completion points.” 

Yet Drenevich’s view is not shared by all of his classmates.

“I agree with the petition,” senior Lily Waskiewicz said. “Having tests weigh a lot more than formative assignments is unfair during a time when we only get to see our teachers twice a week. With less face to face time, I have found it harder to understand some of my class concepts. I think the work we do outside of class and after school is very important and should have a larger impact on our grades.” 

For the final quarter of last school year, the district implemented a pass/fail system. Students who earned a 60% overall grade or higher received 100% in the grade book. The points for the fourth quarter had to be within 75% of the average points for each of the first three quarters. Many students saw their grades and grade point averages increase as a result.

With the new system, however, some classes weigh certain homework and test grades higher, as a single homework assignment or test could be entered for an entire quarter and could count for either 30% or 70%, respectively, of their grade.

NASH senior Thomas Joyce sees an issue with the timing of the district’s new policy.

“It is possibly the worst year to employ this grading policy,” he said.

With less face to face time, I have found it harder to understand some of my class concepts. I think the work we do outside of class and after school is very important and should have a larger impact on our grades.”

— Lily Waskiewicz, senior

Students who agree with the petition feel as though the stress of incorporating online school with their daily routines is hard enough, let alone managing the new grading system.

“I don’t think this is the time to implement this grading system, especially coming from a pass/fail,” said junior Eliza Lowman. “I think with hybrid and all of the unknown, a 50/50 system would be more beneficial.” 

NASH senior Brady Walker, however, simply believes that the no matter when the district implemented the system, it would have many more cons than pros.

“I think that the new grading system is unfair towards the students, and it is affecting everyone’s grades negatively,” he said. 

Nayak and the rest of the creators of the petition are optimistic that their work will create the change they see necessary.

“We believe that the petition will cause a change due to the number of signatures we have received,” Nayak said. “It is quite evident that the students and parents of North Allegheny want a change in the grading system, and they believe that the current system is unfair.”

The grading system implemented for this school year appears to be unpopular not only with numerous students but also with their parents. Many comments on the petition are from concerned parents, worrying that their child is experiencing increased stress due to the new grading policy. With COVID-19 continuing to wreak havoc on the education process, many students have said that they want as much of their education to be as normal as possible.

“[The petition is] a smart idea to really see how NA students feel about the new grading system,” Waskiewicz added.

Nayak emphasized that the end goal is simple.

“Our goal is to influence change in the grading policy and to have a fair grading policy for all students that decreases stress and does not negatively affect students for doing poorly on just one test,” he said.