School of Education News

State Journal speaks with UW-Madison’s Goff about grading floors

December 04, 2019

The Wisconsin State Journal interviewed UW-Madison’s Peter Goff for a report examining the trial implementation of grading floors in Madison schools. 

Goff is an assistant professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

Madison West High School was selected to test a grading floor as a part of a district examination of freshman grading, in an effort to keep students who fail early in high school from failing out of school completely. As a part of the program, the State Journal reports that ninth grade teachers will give grades no lower than 40 percent, eliminate extra credit, and allow up to 90 percent credit for late work required in classes. 

Changes like this can help struggling students catch up in a class and stay on track before reaching the point at which they won’t be able to pass, the report explains. West High Principal Karen Boran told the State Journal that moving the grading floor could be particularly meaningful for students of color, students with disabilities, and English-language learners who have higher course failure rates. 

Goff explains to the State Journal that opponents to grading floors often argue they lower academic expectations or say that if students don’t hand in assignments — and therefore don’t meet the requirements of a class — they shouldn’t be able to pass.

Supporters argue grading floors give struggling students a chance to catch up in a class before falling to a point at which, mathematically, they can’t pass, Goff adds.

Goff — who is skeptical of the percentage-based grading system as a whole — tells the newspaper that he doesn’t lean one way or the other on grading floors but supports grading policies that “keep kids engaged and involved.”

​To learn more about this nuanced topic, check out the entire State Journal report here.

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