The 80/20 Grading Policy Isn’t Working

Sarah Baird, Pawprint Staff Reporter

Hillcrest changed its grading policy from 70/30 to 80/20 this year, meaning that assessments are 80% of students’ overall grade, with assignments making up the remaining 20%.

There are many things wrong with this policy. The first reason is that it is unfair. The new policy essentially only grades students based on tests. Students’ performance on a test does not always reflect how much they know about a subject. Many students struggle with test-taking for multiple reasons, such as test anxiety and learning disabilities. Measuring students only based on test scores is unfair.

Tests are a massive source of stress for students without counting for 80% of their classes grade. In a world when there is already so much stress, schools should be striving to place less burden on their pupils, not more. Tests need to be treated less like the end-all-be-all of school. It would be nice to have a grading policy that reflects the value of tests while also acknowledging they are not a world-ending event.

Another reason why this policy is ineffective is that it emphasizes the wrong aspect of school. Teachers give tests to measure learning, not facilitate learning. Focusing more on tests than the learning itself (which is a problem with the overall education system) teaches students to only worry about results and not the process or journey. It won’t matter if they do poorly on the assignments if they can cheat on a test and still pull an A- overall. Of course, not all students would cheat, but the stress of wanting a good grade may lead some students to do that.

On the other side of the issue, this grading policy also discounts assignments. If the work does not affect student’s grade many students might not see a point in doing well on assignments. Students may think that as long as they do well on the test, they don’t need to try on other work.

The mentality promoted by the new grading policy is harmful to students, as it creates a generation that cares more about results than trying hard and reaching goals. Students can succeed on tests without trying by cheating or simply having good luck and guessing correctly. That’s not what matters – what matters is the person they became getting there. 

Teachers and administration need to realize how much school shapes who people become. Kids and teens, even if it’s subconscious, seek the approval of the adults in their life. What they think matters to their guardians and teachers will likely matter a lot to them as well. If teachers only prioritize results, students will begin to only care about the results and not what they did (or didn’t do) to get there, which is a mistaken outlook. Hillcrest’s grading policy should not inadvertently promote that.