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The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

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Students surprised by new math grading system

Math teacher Daniel Nguyen answers senior Shamsheer Singh’s question during an AP Statistics class at Palo Alto High School. The Math Department recently changed the math grading scale for a standard A-? to be 90%, rather than the previous 88%. According to Nguyen, students are adapting to the new grading policy well. “Based on what I saw in my classes when I went over the new cutoffs on the first day to school, it seemed students were initially unhappy with the change but quickly took it in stride,” Nguyen said. (Photo: Celina Lee)

What difference does two percentage points make? A lot, if you ask Palo Alto High School students enrolled in math classes. 

This school year, the Paly math department changed the threshold for a standard A- in math classes from 88% to 90%. A similar change applies to all letter grades, with the thresholds for B’s, C’s and D’s from between 80% to 90%, 70% to 80% and 60% to 70% respectively.

The new grading scale has some students worried about the prospect of their grades for the upcoming school year. Senior Lachlan Kirby, who is taking AP Calculus BC this year, said academic proficiency will be more difficult with the new grading system.

“The new grading system will make it harder to get A’s,” Kirby said. “I prefer the old system because it was easier to get good grades, but I get why Paly changed the system because it gives us an unfair advantage over other schools where an A is a 90%.”

According to math teacher Daniel Nguyen, the implementation of the new grading system will conform with other departments and other schools. 

“Previously, the math department used an 88% as an A-,” Nguyen said. “The department moved to a 90-80-70 [grading scale] system to be more aligned with other high schools. … The new system is less confusing for everyone, including students. I don’t know of any school or department that uses the 88-77-66 cutoffs, so switching to 90-80-70 makes math classes more consistent with others.”

Math Instructional Lead Natalie Docktor said the old math grading policy was created for teachers to increase the difficulties of math tests.

“Years ago we [the Math Department] were always at the 90-80-70 [grading scale] like everyone else,” Docktor said. “But then we really wanted to add challenge problems to our honor courses, and we wanted students to be able to try those challenge problems without being penalized but keep the tests rigorous and hard.”

According to Docktor, as time progressed tests and courses became easier and there was no longer a need for the extra percentage points given to students.

“As the years have gone on, our tests have gotten easier anyways,” Docktor said. “We don’t feel like the reason it [the grading scale] went down is valid anymore. … There are so many ways to boost your grade these days, it’s not going to hurt students’ grades at all. It’s more realistic with all the things we have in place, and I think the grading system reflects changes in the policies.”

Junior Justun Kim said the stricter requirements will mean that students have to invest more time into math classes. 

“This change [the new grading system] will challenge the students who may have been kicking back and force them to change the amount of effort they put into school, which is a good thing,” Kim said. “Obviously with a stricter grading scale it will be harder to maintain a grade that one [a student] wants.” 

However, Nguyen said there will presumably be no changes in student performance and the grades students receive. 

“Any change in grade distribution is likely to be negligible,” Nguyen said. “By rolling out these changes on the first day of school, students have a clear understanding of how they will earn grades.”

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About the Contributor
Celina Lee, Editor-in-Chief

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    YingAug 24, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    Well said! Thank you for the great information.