Step 4 A: Grading and Social Justice


South L.A. student finds a different world at Cal – LA Times

Read this article from The LA Times.  Take notes to collect textual evidence to support your response to:

What issues around traditional K-12 grading practices does this article raise?

In the comment section below, post your response to the above question including supporting textual evidence.

1,262 thoughts on “Step 4 A: Grading and Social Justice

  1. Kris Nevills says:

    This article demonstrates that the traditional grading system is unfair to students. It is too subjective. Kashawn was given a false picture of his skill level. Even with state standards in place, teachers’ expectations vary.


  2. Caryn says:

    Keshawn’s GPA was not an accurate reflection of his level of understanding of the standards that were necessary to be a success in college. It sounds like it was a reflection of grades that were created by the teachers in a “bell curve” type of system. They were so impressed that Keshawn did so well in comparison to his peers that they inadvertently set him up to fail.
    I went to a college prep school and it was very clear that my school’s standards and it’s location carried a lot of weight on a college application. It didn’t make me any smarter or less smart than my public school peers. I did learn a different work ethic and the expectation that 100% of my graduating class was expected.
    The inconsistency in grading and attitudes about education have existed for years. Right or wrong the system will not be “fixed” until educators are taught consistently.


  3. Yolanda casas says:

    One of the issues that the article raises is how unprepared students really are when it comes to doing college work level. Although Kashawn, a high school student at Jefferson, had a 4.06 grade point average in high school, he struggled to make it through his first year of college. His reading and writing skills were considered low. Apparently, his high school did not expose him to rigorous writing activities. The article noted that Kashawn was only required to do a page for a long essay. At Cal, he had difficulty producing acceptable essays. According to Kashawn’s instructor, his writing had “awkward and unclear sentences.” Educators need to have a common ground when it comes to assessing students. Further, schools need to do a better job in preparing students for college by teaching critical thinking skills and writing across the curriculum.


  4. Francisco Robles says:

    This article didn’t really surprise me, I grew up in the inner city too. I was told by my high school advisor to start working after high school graduation rather than attend college or university.Our schools are not all meeting the academic needs of our students and our programs need to change to meet the needs of our communities which are very diverse but our staff is not as diverse as our classrooms here in Los Angeles , I have experience it my self growing up here as a teenager and now as an educator. The article suggests that his grades were based on his tasks rather than standard base.


  5. Gloria Kaufman Harrington says:

    This article didn’t really surprise me. I grew up in the inner city as well. I attended the Upward Bound program. When I was in math class under Jaime Escalante, he kept telling me that to go to college I had to be able to compete. I didn’t know exactly what he meant at the time but, when I got into college I understood very well. I wasn’t as learned in math as many of the other students. So I can relate to Kashawn Campbell. I had to begin at lower math courses and work my way up to the ones I actually needed. So, sometimes students are doing well against the students in their environment. But, once they compete with students from affluent environments who’ve had private tutors, honors classes, advanced technology, and more higher level skills, they don’t measure up. Of course there could be other factors as well.


  6. Debby says:

    The issue that is raised by this article around traditional K-12 grading practices is: Does education for an inner city student and a student of privilege have the same level of college preparedness to make it at a four year university? According to this article, NO! Kashawn Campell, struggled emotionally, academically, and financially,” He had never felt this kind of failure” and “he had a 1.7 GPA.” How fair is that? I can’t imagine the feeling(s) Kashawn felt as he went to college thinking he was college ready and prepared, but in reality he had many educational gaps. It is astonishing to hear his personal story of struggle, but at the end I was encouraged to see his perseverance and accomplishment. This is not the case for most. I do not see most persevering through those tough moments of emotional, academic, or financial struggle. He had an amazing roommate and family support which again most do not have. Kashawn is an fortunate student he overcame the academic obstacles that were put forth. He came out a winner. I work for a Title I school, and it made me reflect on my own personal teaching standards. After reading this article I realized, I am not an effective teacher yet, but I am working on meeting that goal.


  7. Stacie Kortkamp says:

    One of the biggest issues brought up in the article was that the student could not write and did not know what he needed to do to improve. At his high school he was top notch, but when compared to other students, he just didn’t measure up. Too often students are graded against the best of their peers at the school they attend and not a more objective standard. This leaves these kids at a terrible disadvantage when they move on to college.


  8. says:

    This article did’t raise an eyebrow. After working at high schools in Watts and Inglewood, and watching kids get accepted into enviable colleges, and quickly returning after dropping out, I knew this inequity existed.


  9. HP- Julian Mendez says:

    The article raises an all too common issue that is seen in my school and other inner city schools like it. Every year I have students that pass my class with an A and probably have a C in general understanding of the material. Many schools also have high performing students that fail in college because they lack actual skills needed to succeed.


  10. April Parker says:

    What issues around traditional K-12 grading practices does this article raise? The article underscores the problem of students in underserved schools being less prepared for college-level writing. Teachers may be well intended, but achievement gaps can still impact overall college-readiness.


  11. HP_Stevens says:

    I believe Kashawn Campbell’s experience illuminates a pervasive problem in education today: the racism inherent in low academic expectations for people of color. Kashawn had every reason to believe he had been adequately prepared for college. He had “earned” a 4.06 GPA in high school, achieving top grades with minimal effort. However, when he moved into an environment filled with EuroAmerican and Asian students, he found that his academic skills were vastly inferior – a discovery that made him question his inherent worth as a person. His high school teachers did him no favors by feeding his belief that poor-quality work was excellent. Yet teachers at schools in places where poor academic skills are commonplace feel tremendous pressure to pass their students with high grades in order to make the school systems look good. The typical outcome is that teachers lower the expectations of their classes so students can pass them more easily – a practice that presupposes that the students in those classes are incapable of handling more rigorous work. The teachers appear effective because students are passing their classes, and parents and administrators are satisfied that the students are progressing through the system. Unfortunately, the students won’t even realize they have been cheated until it’s time for them to apply the skills they are supposed to have learned.


  12. Jose Cervantes-Larios says:

    The article “South L.A. Student finds a Different World At Cal” narrates the story of Kashawn Cambell. He is an African American student who got straight “A”s in high school despite his limitations as a student. The article states that “none of his essays had been good enough to receive passing grades. Still instead of failing him, she gave a reprieve : His report card will show in progress. ” This example of Kashawn demonstrates one of the biggest problems in today’s grading: teachers are grading students based on work completion instead of measuring how much they have learned. I can relate to Kashawn’s story because as a high school student, my teachers would give me full credit for completing my work instead of providing much feedback on what I was doing wrong. When I got to college and took my placement test, I ended up in remedial courses for both Math and English. As a ELD teacher, I have noticed that some of my students who are getting “A”s are still not learning much English. This is a wake up call for me to be more objective as far as my grading so that it can connect to what the students are learning. I must also provide constructive feedback to my students to help them know what they are doing well and what needs to be improved.


  13. Suzanne Silverstein says:

    I remember when this article was in the LA Times. I see the issue here as Kashawn was very likely one of the strongest students in his class. The teachers used his ability and scores as the basis for establishing the grading of the other students. If his work was the best in the class, it received an A. It wasn’t necessarily being evaluated at the standards necessary for collegiate success.


  14. Humberto Chaidez says:

    I wish there was more about the concept of Social Justice, but it is all good. This was me when I got to college albeit i didn’t struggle from 4.0 to 2.0, more like to a 2.75-3.0. But from this article i can safely say that A’s in the hood are C’s / D’s at the University level. This stood out to me; “As much as they had in common, they were also different. Spencer’s mother, a medical administrator, had graduated from UCLA and exposed her only child to art, politics, literature and the world beyond Inglewood.” I remember reading somewhere that the 2 strongest indicators whether a child will be able to make it to the university level, are not how hard they work, their GPA, etc… BUT rather their parents income and parents education levels. Spencer Simpson had one of those and it was enough. Thank goodness he met Kashawn; that support system is crucial when most of the faces surrounding you don’t resemble your own.


  15. Ani Perez says:

    What issues around traditional K-12 grading practices does this article raise?

    Kashawn’s experience was much like many other students who were “big fish in a little pond” thrown into a big pond where they could barely stay afloat. Traditional K-12 grading practices set Kashawn up for failure. His grades in high school were not an accurate depiction of his academic abilities. Because he was a sweet young man and everyone at his high school wanted him to succeed, they thought they were helping him by “giving” him the grades he deserved. On the contrary, his high school experiences had no correlation to the real world of college life. His lack of experiences outside his bleak community also did him a disservice. In the article, it stated that Spencer, Kashawn’s roommate who also came from a tough neighborhood had a very different experience his first year at UC Berkeley.

    It states in the article, “As much as they had in common, they were also different. Spencer’s mother, a medical administrator, had graduated from UCLA and exposed her only child to art, politics, literature and the world beyond Inglewood.” Spencer’s mother gave him what Kashawn’s mother couldn’t, a taste of the real world outside of the walls of their sheltered and damaged community. Traditional grading practices did not phase Spencer because he knew what to expect from the outside world.


  16. Corey Roberts says:

    The articles around traditional K-12 grading practices raised by the article are:
    There can be a disconnect between a student’s GPA and his or her college readiness. The fact that “By the end of his senior year, Kashawn’s 4.06 grade point average was second best in the senior class,” contrasts sharply with the words of his writing instructor: “It took awhile for him to understand there was a problem…He could not believe that he needed more skills.”


  17. Sara Roof (Millikan MS) says:

    From my understanding, the most significant issue around traditional grading practices (as indicated in the article) is that the student, regardless of their GPA or academic achievements, was not actually gaining a deep understanding of the content. The quote from the article, “by the end of his senior year, Kashawn’s 4.06 grade point average was second best in the senior class” and that “because of a statewide program to attract top students from every public California high school, a spot at a UC system campus waited for him.” At his school, he was in the top of his class, but when he got to college, he became a part of a much larger selection of students who were also “top students” from their schools, but he fell short in comparison. This suggests the possibility that his grades were based more on completing tasks, and not as much on the actual learning and understanding of the material or concepts.


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