Teachers React to 80/20 Grading Policy

Does the 80/20 grading policy provide the best framework for teachers to help prepare students for the next step in their education?


Aiden Owen

Teachers spend time in their classrooms working hard to ensure their students succeed.

Kassidy Trembath, Editor in Chief

The following is the third segment in a series meant to explore the 80/20 grading policy at Mead High School. Stay tuned for more installments.If you have not yet read the first segment describing why MHS has the 80/20 policy, according to Principal Ayers, you can read that here.

Furthermore, If you have not yet read the second segment describing how MHS students have acclimated to the 80/20 policy, you can read that here.


In 2015, there was no official grading policy, though many teachers used some variation of a split between formative and summative assessment. The following year, in 2016, the policy changed to be 80% summative and 20% formative across all classes at MHS.

The policy is as follows: Learning activities are 20 percent of a student’s final grade (formative assessments), while assessments (summative assessments) are mostly exams, tests, and quizzes are 80 percent of the student’s grade.

Ever wondered how other teachers feel about this policy?

Teachers interviewed for this segment represent the major academic regions of the school including all core classes (English, Social Studies, Science, and Math) as well as electives and Special Education.

Students may be likely to assume that teachers don’t care very much about the school’s grading policy since it does not affect them in the same way it affects students. Students are the ones who must live with their GPA forever (or at least until college, anyway), not necessarily teachers.

However, like any major policy, many teachers do have an opinion. If given the opportunity, some say, they would make changes.

Some teachers believe it should be a department decision, some believe it should be left up to the individual, and others admit that they do not feel they are qualified to comment on the effectiveness of the grading system.


Pros and Cons

The 80/20 policy comes with advantages and disadvantages.

One teacher put it bluntly and said, “I think it makes it really hard to get an A in a class, but also really hard to fail”.

Another teacher addresses both the pro and cons: “I can understand why it’s in place for kids moving on to college because in college tests are weighted very heavily, so I understand the prepping for it. Kids who aren’t good at test taking are at a disadvantage because of it. If the homework, or formative, was [worth] more, some students would struggle with that because they aren’t great at doing their homework.”

“I have mixed feelings about them because I see some advantages and disadvantages” said a third.

On the other hand, some teachers acknowledge the detriments of the system. “I feel like it’s a bit too high. It does not account for kids who have test anxiety. There are other ways for them to show what they have learned besides tests” said another.


How Would Teachers Feel As a Student?

Regardless of the mixed feelings about the pros and cons, all teachers interviewed generally agreed that if they were students under this policy, they would not perform well.

“I’d probably feel a little bit frustrated because it seems over weighted.”

“I would feel a lot of pressure to perform well on tests and become very stressed out before a test is given.”

“If I were a student, this would scare me initially. However, it would require me to knuckle down and really know my material.”

“By high school, I’d realize that it de-emphasizes homework. I would be strategic and focus my attention on assessment.”


What Would Teachers Change?

“I would change it so that it’d be up to departments and teachers…” said one. “Because 80/20 doesn’t work for everybody.”

It may not be the policy necessarily, that teachers don’t like, just the weight of the categories: “I might change the percentages a little bit” said another.

“I think I would just change the definition of what summative assessment meant” said a third.

Not every teacher would change the policy. One stated that they “aren’t sure if [they’d] change anything” but that it would be “nice not to put grades in so early in the semester. The very first assessment makes or breaks a kid right away. It can be punitive or give kids a false sense of where they’re at.”

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