Experts weigh in on MMSD's grading scale

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- The Madison Metropolitan School District's grading system could be getting an upgrade and educational psychology experts say grades can have a variety of impacts on students.

Under a new pilot program the lowest grade students could get on assignments is 40 or 50 percent, not a zero.

Studies show freshman year is the most important year in high school and Geoffrey D. Borman, UW-Madison Education Policy Professor, said it can make or break you.

The modern A-F grading system has been around since the 1900's.
It's an evaluation performance of students that MMSD officials said is outdated.

MMSD is currently using the 0 to 100 percentage grading system, but high school teachers are trying out a new grade scale making forty or fifty percent-- the new zero. In other words, a student could simply not turn in their assignment and still get credit.

"The grade scale itself is something I think not all students are accustomed to," Geoffrey D. Borman, UW-Madison Education Policy Professor said.

Borman said one of the fears students face their freshman year is letter grades and failing early can have severe consequences.

"When teachers assign a very poor grade to a student, this can signal to many kids ‘this teacher doesn't believe in me’ and’ I'm not capable of doing the work of a high school student.’ It can set kids on a downward spiral,” he said.

A spiral Borman said can lead to dropping out of school.

"It can completely demotivate students when they feel as if ‘I've got a 0 and it's going to take this many A's in my career to make up for that 0," he said.

He said it's about more than just a grade.

“Rather than coddling them we're giving a little bit of a boost to them to support them and allow them to make a more successful transition,” he said.

NBC15 spoke to parents who did not want to go on camera, but said they feel this grade scale is "dumbing it down" and only encourages students to be lazy in school.

MMSD said they have not decided what permanent changes will be made, if any.