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  • Monday, December 12, 2011


    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation: Out of the Box or Out of Control PART 1

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation
    Out of the Box or Out of Control?

    Most of the handful of schools across California that have implemented a California State Standards (CST) Incentive Program are doing so on their own with a wide-range of approaches. Only Los Angeles Unified School District has a district-wide experimental program in place with district-wide policies for the 39 schools selected to participate in the experimental program. Those policies include legal and logistical policies to navigate the legal pitfalls that the program encounters. By contrast, Orange Unified's El Modena High School, with a more fly-by the-seat-of-our-pants approach, has done none of the legal legwork to prevent another colossal El Modena scandal from erupting in the myriad of issues that could and may have already happened with the program at El Modena. This school year in Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation Out of the Box or Out of Control? the newest Orange Net News investigative series, we will be examining the good, the bad and the ugly issues that this new program opens up, not only specifically with the program at El Modena and its potential far reaching consequences for Orange Unified, but also with the possible future of CST Incentive programs overall.

    AP and honors Students penalized: Student Segregation Returns
    Orange Unified’s El Modena High School is no stranger to controversy, or controversial programs. The most recent foray into the land of educational controversy is being pushed by El Modena Principal John Briquelet. Under Briquelet, the principal has pushed El Modena to join a handful of California high schools experimenting with motivating students to do better on the California State Standards (CST) exams by increasing classroom grades for students who perform well on the tests.

    The idea of the grade improvement program is to improve apathy among high school students towards a testing regime that students have come to realize by high school has no real world consequences for poor performance because they do not effect grade-points, do not fulfill graduation credits or requirements for college entrance or help on college applications. At El Modena however, the program tries to not reward motivated AP and honors students who would be more inclined to be “motivated” to use the rewards program.

    Any new program can be a hard sell, especially when California Education Code makes teachers the final authority over classroom grades. By most accounts, Briquelet used his bully pulpit to impose the system on the El Modena staff. That can clearly be seen in the paper issued by Briquelet titled A CST Incentive Program FAQ . In it Briquelet repeatedly uses the pronoun “I”. More astonishing is the A CST Incentive Program FAQ presentation of antidotal evidence, generalizations, stereotypes and assumptions as fact.

    The A CST Incentive Program FAQ includes phrases like;

    “We would like to be accurately represented as a an academic institution”;

    “Believe it or not, a school’s performance can affect home values in its attendance area!":

    “We do not expect excessive grade inflation”.

    “First, very few students will have sufficient knowledge to move from F to D, but their certainly will be a few who manage to do so."

    “AP and honors students and honors students should be able to score Advanced in most cases with little effort- the CST exams are not much of a challenge for these kids”

    The El Modena plan also includes the legally questionable policy of penalizing Advance Placement (AP) and honors not only by not only requiring them to score higher on the CST exams with an Advance score, but also by giving those already motivated students only one-third the grade “bump” if they do score higher on the CST. The El Modena CST Incentive Program FAQ explains: “AP and honors classes are already provided a bump of sorts through weighted GPA’s, therefore, therefore a full grade increase would result in excessive grade and GPA inflation.”

    The LAUSD Board of Education approved Los Angeles Unified plan treats all students equally while recognizing the extra efforts AP and honors students make. Far from penalizing AP students, those students are treated the same as all students by the LAUSD CST Program. The LAUSD program rewards any student improving their score by one achievement category to the next achievement category. In addition, the Los Angeles Unified incentive policy recognizes and rewards AP students for the extra efforts needed to pass the AP examinations by allowing students to petition for an A in a class for a passing score on those college level AP examinations.

    Finally, the El Modena CST Incentive Program FAQ addresses what many critics cite as the educational ethical questions with more of an opinion piece:

    “Are extra credit assignments unethical? What about the administration of final exams? How about giving students’ college course credits for passing Advanced Placement exams? No, I do not see the CST Incentive Program as remotely unethical.”

    Unfortunately, this is just where our series begins.

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation
    Out of the Box or Out of Control ?

    Is an investigative news series of

    Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    Independent insight into OUSD

    Orange Net News newest investigative series:

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation
    Out of the Box or Out of Control?

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