Formatives are the real culprit

Our position: LT’s new formative assignment policy is primarily to blame for the high increase in failure rates

Recently, LION reported that LT has seen an unusually high number of students failing, including 8% at the end of the first quarter and 3% at the end of the first semester—the highest rates seen in five years. Much of the blame for this has been put on students not being able to fully connect and engage during online learning

While this is part of the problem, there is another aspect that is equally to blame, if not more so. Under a new grading policy, summatives (quizzes, tests and projects) count towards the final grade, while formatives (homework, in-class assignments, etc.) do not. This misstep by the LT administration has caused student participation in these formative activities to plummet, and their grades right along with them.

Student motivation surely has been a problem throughout e-learning, with it being easy to slack off and not pay attention during Zoom calls. From a student’s point of view, it makes it even easier to not pay attention during class or not do homework when none of it matters for an actual grade anyways. Were these types of assignments to be worth class credit, students would be essentially forced to do them, undoubtedly increasing class participation and test scores.        

High school students are busy. Between schoolwork, sports, clubs, jobs and friends, they often have a lot to juggle. As a result of this, what automatically goes to the bottom of the priority list? The optional homework that isn’t even worth class credit. This is not a case of students being lazy but logically prioritizing their valuable time. From a student’s point of view, why would they spend the little time they have on assignments that just count for participation points?    

LT’s changes to the grading policy are dependent upon students intrinsically caring about their learning. In the vast majority of cases, that’s not true. That will never be true. Students will do the bare minimum to achieve whatever grades they consider to be acceptable for themselves. Students game the system; they always have, and they always will. By making homework and projects formative assignments, students are even more incentivized to game the system. What the LT administration must realize is that they cannot change the way the majority of students think about school and their own learning. Attempting to do so is the equivalent of jamming a square peg in a round hole; it just doesn’t work that way. 

The danger with the current scenario is that the high failure rates are simply chalked up to be the result of online learning struggles. This assumption, while partly true, does not paint the whole picture. Placing the blame solely on online learning overlooks the other big culprit: LT’s formative policy. Change is not always good nor necessary, and if the LT administration wants to reduce the high number of students failing, they must revert back to the grading system from years’ past.

Staff vote: 22-3