We had our annual honors celebration for our students that achieved at 3.5 GPA over at least 9 quarters of their academic career. It was a really nice evening with some great kids, but I've reached a sticking point on the fact that 111 of 205 students achieved at this level. As an optimist, I want to say that we are getting a wonderful number of students to a very high level of knowing and understanding, but reality keeps hitting me over the head.
Two things have changed to drive our numbers from 85-90 students to 100+ students. The first is our leap forward into standards-based grading. Our whole understanding of how to grade and when to grade has been thrown on its head. (I ultimately think that this is a good thing, but the factors haven't caught up with each other.) It is harder to get an A grade, but it may be easier to reach a meeting level (B) because of the clear expectations that are on the table. The second piece of the honors inflation is that we changed the criteria for receiving the award from your final nine quarters GPA to your best nine quarters GPA. Many students were receiving B and C grades during Q2 and Q3 of their eighth grade year which pulled them below the line. Many of these quarters are now being thrown out with more reliance on sixth grade quarters. This isn't a shot at the rigor of sixth grade, but much of our philosophical shift when we were learning standards-based grading was about judging students closer to the end of the learning, and this new criteria breaks from this.
In the end, it doesn't hurt anything to have 111 Honors Students, but a serious conversation about grade inflation is so overdue. Congratulations to the students last night, now let's get back to fixing the system so it is accurate and fair for the future.