The impact of rounding and curving grades

For high school students, grades seem to be the determining factor of their future. With this mentality, the curve of a test or the rounding of grades plays a crucial part for any student attempting to reach the next letter grade.

To any student struggling with a borderline grade, a teacher rounding the overall grade is a heaven-sent miracle. Such rounding methods, whether it be from 85 percent to 88.5 percent to 89.5 percent, seem to help the student reach a certain grade point average (GPA) or improve their academic standing. In more difficult classes, curving test scores can make it easier for students to reach a higher overall grade and benefit them in the long run.

Although helpful, this system can be unfair. Many teachers round and curve grades differently, even among those who teach the same subject. While some teachers may round a 89.5 (or lower), others won’t. The system becomes unfair to the students doing the same amount of work, yet do not receive the same rewards or help from teachers. There are additional factors that affect the curve in the grand scheme of things. Some teachers who implement them make their tests worth more than others who don’t have such a curve. For example, a teacher may make a certain test worth 150 points rather than the usual 100. Also, in a weighted system, tests may be worth more, such as 80 percent, rather than the previous percentages of 65 percent or 60 percent. The curve seems to be balanced out, but not by much.

There’s also the bitterness and sometimes regret from students who have taken classes in the past and hear that current students can achieve the same grades with a lower percentage. For those who took the classes and went through the same curriculum, yet ended up with a possibly lower grade, resulting in a lower GPA, the curve may seem unfair despite the increase in test worth. At Walnut, we hold such an emphasis on grades and GPA that a curve may seem unfair to those who did not receive it. However, despite the inevitable unfairness, curving grades is a teacher’s way of helping the students succeed and balancing out the difficulty of the class.

By Vivian Lee, Coverage lead
Editorial cartoon by Natalie Jiang

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