Are today's students making the grade?

What message are we sending by not insisting they do their homework?

I strongly disagree with the Baltimore County Public Schools' new Grading and Reporting Procedures Manual ("Baltimore County won't give grades for homework," Sept. 4).

The way the county schools changed their grading policy is unfair to students and in the long run it will be detrimental to them.

The schools will no longer penalize students for late or missing homework assignments or noncompliant behavior. On the flip side, students' grades will not take into account neatness, participation and effort or their completion of homework assignments.

The school system believes that recording a zero on straight-A student's assignment will not motivate the student to work harder or learn content at a faster rate, so the lowest grade a child can ever get is 50 percent.

But research shows that teamwork, timeliness, responsibility, cooperation and accountability are the skills kids need to be successful in life. How are children going to learn responsibility if they have the option to turn in assignments late or not at all? What is the message conveyed by giving them a 50 percent for absolutely zero effort?

If a child comes in every day, puts forth the effort, does her homework and participates in class but is a terrible test taker, that child will now only be graded based on her test scores. And for very bright kids, where is the incentive to work hard when all they need to do is just study for the test and not put in any other effort?

Increasingly, colleges are not just looking at grades when they are deciding on candidates. A's are great, but schools now want to know the complete picture. Are their applicants dependable and responsible? Do they have the executive functioning skills to make it in college?

The new BCPS policies may be a wake-up call that we need to overhaul the entire grading system to include the benchmarks that are critical for success in life.

Ben Shifrin, Baltimore

The writer is head of Jemicy School in Owings Mills.

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