Author Topic: Is 95 really the best you can get?  (Read 8454 times)

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RegionMom

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Is 95 really the best you can get?
« on: November 21, 2012, 10:50:42 PM »
Some of you may recall that my freshman DD had issues with her Lit class last year at a private school.  Midterm grades were dropped, the teachers that were "bad" are gone, grading rubrics and teacher e-mails are more abundant this year, and other changes have been implemented to "make up the losses for all the freshmen, (but we will not admit that there was a problem.)

DD (Hortense) is still gun shy about speaking during the special round-table discussions.  DH and I have asked three times for a conference, but each time the teacher says, "there is no need" and that he is aware of what occurred last year.  He can tell she is well-read and prepared and takes good notes, and writes fantastic essays, and participates well in general discussions, but "freezes up" for the graded ones. 

My question here is for her history class, run by the same department chair as last year, for lit and history. 

DD wrote, if I say so myself, a kick-butt theme for her history class.  It was better than anything my son has written, and it was better than many college papers that DH and I wrote way back when.  It was concise, pointed, documented, and the teacher wrote on it, "Beautifully done."  Her grading rubric was marked highest levels across the board.

Her grade was 95.

Hortense approached the teacher the next day and asked, "what could I have done to make my paper even better?"  The teacher asked, "did I not write any comments?  Oh, the beautifully done.  Yes, well...hmmm  (page flip...page flip...page flip...) yes, well, here, this text might should be block texted instead, so that would be one point there... (page flip...page flip...)  Hortense, I want to let you know that you received the highest grade of the entire grade level.  I have never given higher than a 95 or 96 on a paper.  Well done!"

Well, Hortense said she feels rather hollow. 

This whole year's overarching theme in parent communications is "the pursuit of excellence vs. the pursuit of perfection."  And the kids are not to be stressed in trying to obtain the 'perfect' grade. 

But when a student is told that the best they can get is a 95, then you really DO have to stress out for the perfect, because if you miss just a couple of points, you lose the strong 'A.' 

If you have a 94 or above, you can exempt the midterm.  Not that she cares so much about that, but she does have all 'A's and would like to keep that. 

Now, her lit grade is high B/low A.  She has liked history class because it is more factual but now she is frustrated because of this received "perfect" 95.  Why do her best when it will not be recognized?

Colleges will not see that it is the highest grade, they will see that her overall is less than unweighted 4.0

At a recent parent talk, one long-term parent explained to a new family that "at this school, an 85 is a really good grade." 

We have had it drilled since grade school that "your A student may not make A's in HS." 

Well, why not?  Both my kids ARE making A's, and DS has only missed an unweighted 4.0 twice--both by lit courses.  Only ONE student ever has graduated with an unweighted 4.0 and that was three years ago.

I guess I sound grade grubbing.  But the paper really was that good.  My kids really are uber nerds--I have the standardized test scores to prove it, plus years of reading and geeking out and even tutoring their friends.

I would like to e-mail the teacher, but with over a decade of parents hearing that "this school is hard...a B is good...all the students here are honor students...we will not level humanities classes, only math and science courses...the smarter students must lead the others...we are Christians so do not complain..."  I am afraid I will be brushed off and quiet little Hortense will continue to shrink away, because she will not see the point in trying.  Why speak out if you are simply patted on the head and shown the door?

So, e-hellions, what, if anything, should I/Hortense write to the history teacher about the "perfect 95?"

 
Fear is temporary...Regret is forever.

TurtleDove

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2012, 11:08:28 PM »

So, e-hellions, what, if anything, should I/Hortense write to the history teacher about the "perfect 95?"

As someone who was valedictorian of her high school class, in a school that sounds similar to the one your kids go to, please do nothing. 

Pippen

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2012, 11:14:44 PM »
I would be very suspect of any teacher that failed to find some fault in a students work. Yes. Work hard and submit the best thing you can, but for such a minimal extension it just seems like a great deal of bother. I had a friend break down in tears and literally thought her life was over when she got her first ever A in her 4th year at varsity. She had never had anything less than an A+ on anything in her 23 years on the planet. She still got a full scholarship to Cambridge for her Phd and works in cancer research/government policy wonking part time while doing what she really loves which is her circus skills.

There is a huge disadvantage to telling young people with great skill that only their marks matter and that anything less than perfection is unacceptable. It leaves them no room to make mistakes and learn from them.

Deetee

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2012, 11:25:04 PM »
I can't imagine what you can say. Yes, the instructor could give some additional feedback, but as an instructor and a student I can totally see that there could be nothing wrong with a paper, but it can still be lacking something (additional research, additional nuance, bit more tying together of divergent themes, more analysis, criticism of sources, more primary sources). So while there is nothing incorrect, it lacks the extra level. This can be true of a B paper and can be true of an A paper as well. It becomes exponentially more difficult to improve your grade in an essay based course the closer you get to a perfect score.

So she could ask for feedback on how to obtain a 98% or a 99% but complaining about a 95% grade is disrespectful to the teacher.

stargazer

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2012, 11:30:41 PM »
I don't think the point is the 95.  I think it's that the teacher has said he has NEVER given above that, regardless of what is turned in.  That would never be true of a math class for example.  If you get all the answers right, you get 100.   It is harder to get 100 on a paper but I think it should be possible.   It sounds like it will never be possible with this teacher.

Having said that - you should do nothing.  Your daughter is at a point in life where she needs to deal with this kind of stuff herself and it's not going to have that much of an impact.

Allyson

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2012, 11:43:34 PM »
There are some teachers who will never give 100 percent on something 'subjective', like an essay. There are others who will, but it is extremely rare, and has to be that 'something extra' that is frustratingly indefinable. It's certainly a valid opinion that if a teacher gives less than a perfect grade, he or she should be able to give concrete evidence on how to get those last few marks. But I don't think it's objectively wrong to feel otherwise.

I don't think there's anything that needs to be said here--it's not a grievous enough wrong to take further up the chain, and I doubt there's anything that can be said to the teacher that won't come off as a parent upset their kid didn't get a perfect mark. 95 is still really, really good.

Piratelvr1121

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2012, 11:44:57 PM »
I had a teacher that sounds like this one, only that guy rarely if ever gave a grade higher than a C. My parents had a conference with him and he said "Oh that's good for my class!"  ::)

I was not a great student for the most part, about a high C/low B average, but man, I LOVED English and it was actually one of my better subjects cause I always loved to read and write.  I worked my butt off in those classes.  I wrote a paper on Monet for his class, specifically about a painting and I worked really hard on it and even my parents, who were perfectionists themselves, thought it was "A" writing. 

I got a C on it.  A C, and very few comments written on it. This guy liked to give himself airs, said "I'm just as tough as a college professor so you better get used to this!" Ha! I did better in college English courses without having to try as hard. 

A lot of parents were frustrated with this guy because they saw their kids working their keesters off and it never seemed to make a difference, and it hurt the GPA's too.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.  You have a right to be here. Be cheerful, strive to be happy. -Desiderata

RegionMom

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2012, 11:59:50 PM »
I totally get the "perfection vs. excellence" discussions the school keeps telling parents. 

But when a teacher of several years a the same school says that a 95 is the highest grade ever given, and she had no other comments for improvements, does that really ring true? 

I did not tell DD that the paper was "beautifully done," the teacher did.  I did not ask her to approach the teacher about the grade after the fact.  She did not complain about the grade.  She did not know she had the highest grade.  She asked how she could improve her grade.   I was proud that my shy daughter felt comfortable enough to talk to a teacher, and then tell me about it at home!

My kids like to know where they stand.  If the paper truly needs more research or nuance or vocab or whatever, then say so!  Do not brush them off with, "95 is the highest grade I have ever given." 

Why is that the limit? 

Yes, 95 is good.  But, it does not teach my daughter anything.  Does she need better citations?  too wordy?  better title?  Was this just a fluke?  Or a teacher putting on "airs?"

This school does NOT offer bonus or extra credit points. 

Except... in her math class, when DD's pre-cal class "bombed" the test, the teacher added a 10 point curve to everyone, so that most would receive passing grades.  Unheard of to curve a grade!  But DD only received 6 points, for a total score of 98, since she originally earned a 92, and getting over 100 would not be school policy. 

So, even in an objective class, she kinda got the short end of the stick.  She said nothing, because she knew what she missed, and where she stood.

Yeah, college may or may not be easier.  I enjoy perusing Chronicles of Higher Education.  I read it as a prophylactic for my children's and their professors' sanity!!   :D

So, consensus here is, "say nothing." 

What if this were the other way around, and she had a failing grade with no markings?

Thanks, everyone.  Getting late and I have a race in the morning.  Well, more of a limp/jog/walk, but I will get to eat more seet potato pie in the afternoon!   ;D





Fear is temporary...Regret is forever.

katycoo

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2012, 12:00:22 AM »
teaching and marking in these kinds of subjects are by their very nature, subjective.  Sometimes you cannot articulate what is either  lacking, or could be included, but you know it when you see it.

Your daughter turned in an exwellent paper.  She got the highest mark in the grade.  the teacher can obviously sense that there is capacity for a paper to be even better, but cannot articulate why, and is yet to see one.  That may not satisfy you, but it is her discretion.

Perhaps it is time for your daughter to learn that in life, sometimes the opinion of only one person counts whether you agree with it or not.  It has certainly suffered her no disadvantage worth complaining about.

kudeebee

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2012, 12:02:01 AM »
Honestly, you need to let it go.  Your DD took the iniative and talked with the teacher.  She got a 95 which is an A, a very good grade.  Not every grade has to be 100.

katycoo

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2012, 12:02:09 AM »
Also - you weren't told 95 is the highest mark available.  You were told that this teacher hasn't come across a paper she deemed worthy of a mark higher than 95.

kareng57

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2012, 12:04:29 AM »
I totally get the "perfection vs. excellence" discussions the school keeps telling parents. 

But when a teacher of several years a the same school says that a 95 is the highest grade ever given, and she had no other comments for improvements, does that really ring true? 

I did not tell DD that the paper was "beautifully done," the teacher did.  I did not ask her to approach the teacher about the grade after the fact.  She did not complain about the grade.  She did not know she had the highest grade.  She asked how she could improve her grade.   I was proud that my shy daughter felt comfortable enough to talk to a teacher, and then tell me about it at home!

My kids like to know where they stand.  If the paper truly needs more research or nuance or vocab or whatever, then say so!  Do not brush them off with, "95 is the highest grade I have ever given." 

Why is that the limit? 

Yes, 95 is good.  But, it does not teach my daughter anything.  Does she need better citations?  too wordy?  better title?  Was this just a fluke?  Or a teacher putting on "airs?"

This school does NOT offer bonus or extra credit points. 

Except... in her math class, when DD's pre-cal class "bombed" the test, the teacher added a 10 point curve to everyone, so that most would receive passing grades.  Unheard of to curve a grade!  But DD only received 6 points, for a total score of 98, since she originally earned a 92, and getting over 100 would not be school policy. 

So, even in an objective class, she kinda got the short end of the stick.  She said nothing, because she knew what she missed, and where she stood.

Yeah, college may or may not be easier.  I enjoy perusing Chronicles of Higher Education.  I read it as a prophylactic for my children's and their professors' sanity!!   :D

So, consensus here is, "say nothing." 

What if this were the other way around, and she had a failing grade with no markings?

Thanks, everyone.  Getting late and I have a race in the morning.  Well, more of a limp/jog/walk, but I will get to eat more seet potato pie in the afternoon!   ;D


You seem to be so dissatisfied with this school (I am referring to numerous previous posts), and its lack of recognition of your children's superior abilities.

I have to ask, why are you keeping them there?

gollymolly2

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2012, 12:18:57 AM »
While I can understand wanting feedback to improve, I don't think it's always plausible/possible in a subjective subject like writing. It's easy for a math assignment to be "perfect" or to identify the reasons it was not perfect. The same is not true for writing - an essay that is well written and meets certain objective criteria may be very very good (95) but not perfect (100), but a teacher may jot be able to verbalize the difference.

So I don't think you should say anything more about this.

And I agree with the comments of others. Like a lot of people, I was an overachiever in school, always had test scores in the 99th percentile, etc. I felt a lot of pressure to excel.  Luckily, my parents kept me grounded and helped ease a lot of that pressure. When I was stressed over assignments or exams, my mom would often say "you will not remember this assignment, let alone what grade you got on it, two years from now." And from that, I leaned to keep things in perspective and not prioritize grades and school to the exclusion of enjoying my life. I think if I hadn't gotten that perspective, I would have broken down when I hit obstacles in college or law school, but instead I was able to deal with it all pretty well.

I cannot imagine what my life would have been like if, in addition to the pressure I already felt, my parents added to the pressure by helicoptering my grades, questioning my teachers about why I didn't get a higher A, complaining to the school about grading rubrics, etc.  I think you may do your kids a disservice by being SO involved in their grades, school, college applications, etc. I think that this could be a really good opportunity for you to practice stepping back and helping your daughter find perspective.

Miriam

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #13 on: November 22, 2012, 12:20:40 AM »
It seems like DD is ready for college at this point; nothing is ever perfect for graduate level courses according to the professors or department board.
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NutMeg

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Re: Is 95 really the best you can get?
« Reply #14 on: November 22, 2012, 12:25:56 AM »
RegionMom, your kids are doing fine. You need to back off and relax, and I say this with all kindness. You are not doing them any favours.

How are your kids going to manage their educations when they go off to college? They will have no idea how to advocate for themselves, or what to keep track of, because you are so overly involved in every aspect of their education. They are old enough that you need to start transitioning out of this.

The whole point of a grade is to be able to differentiate between the top students, as well as between the average and lowest students. If someone gets 100 on something, then suddenly the scale becomes less useful. Did they really get 100, or would they have scored a 105 had the scale gone any higher? We don't know any more, because of something called a ceiling effect. Grade inflation leads to severe ceiling effects because now the top 5%, or even 10% of students are all getting the same grade, and  universities and scholarship committees can't tell who the actual top students are. What you are doing by complaining about a 95 is grade mongering, which is exactly what leads to grade inflation, and it doesn't come off as being concerned for your child's learning. If you were really concerned about that, you would be asking the teacher about extra projects to do that would teach your daughter new skills. Except that is your daughter's job, not yours, and so I return to my original advice to back off and relax.
"You're hostages! This is a life-and-death situation here. Start acting like it! We're your captors. We're armed. There's rules. There's a whole school of etiquette to this!" - Dr. Daniel Jackson