Parents hear it all the time: "I've got the toughest math teacher in school. Friends of mine in another class are getting B's for the same work I do and I get D's. I wish I had their teacher."
Most of the time, Moms and Dads turns a skeptical ear toward the argument, and rightfully so. But Wake County school officials are conducting a review of grading in middle and high schools because there do appear to be some variations in grading standards. The bottom line question, once the review is completed and different groups in the community have been heard from, will be: Should there be a districtwide standard grading system?
Getting the answer to that question could be educational in itself, particularly since the participants in discussions with teachers will include students, dropouts and perhaps community leaders. That's fine, and there should be no rush to judgment here. Grading methods have been in place for a long, long time, and change can come too quickly.
But this much is true, always has been and always will be: Fads have no place in grading. Students have to be held accountable for their work, with the best students recognized for performance and the worst given some idea of where they rank among classmates and what they need to do to get better. There's simply no way around that, and no way to avoid disputes over grading, whether it is based on a set of guidelines that goes throughout the district or varies from classroom to classroom.
That's why radical change wouldn't be appropriate, and necessary alterations in grading can be determined by folks familiar with the Wake schools. System administrators, and those leading this grading discussion, should be able to gather ideas on their own and from their contacts in other systems.
There are good minds in Wake County, from students to teachers to principals. They can wrap themselves around this issue with a productive outcome.