We are glad to see young people getting involved in the decision-making process. When eight Kennewick middle school students delivered to the school board 150 letters addressing their grading system, we were impressed.
They sure weren't looking at the rest of the community for role models. As a whole, adults are a demonstrably apathetic when it comes to attending school board or city council meetings.
Regardless of whether the grading system is revised, at least the students have a better feel for how to petition their elected officials.
That's a lesson worth learning.
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As to whether traditional letter grades are superior to the 0-through-4 grading system recently adopted at three of Kennewick's middle schools, well that's a worthy debate.
In fact, it's on the agenda for the school board's retreat June 13.
The board members are doing their homework. They have all been assigned to read, A Repair Kit for Grading, by educational consultant Ken O'Connor.
His expertise no doubts adds some valuable insight to the discussion, but our public school system is far too important to leave to the experts.
Critics of the so-called standards-based grading system include parents, students and teachers, and we have some concerns of our own.
Everyone in the community has a vested interest in improving our schools. But are we all convinced this new grading system is the way to do it? Not really.
We can see some pros and cons, all of which the board is likely to take into consideration at next week's retreat.
For instance, how do grades transfer between schools using different systems? The old system is understood and used nationwide. Despite any advantages, the standards-based system is largely experimental.
The new system makes it harder to fail but also makes it harder to stand out of the top of the class, which some parents and students are bound to find frustrating.
And how do you retrain the district's parents? They're looking for A's and B's on a report card. Most of them are unsure what to do with a 2.9.
Just because it's new and different doesn't necessarily make it better -- or worse, for that matter.
It's shortsighted to shun ideas just because they break from the past, but Americans lean toward the tried and true, as a rule. (No doubt this is why most of the rest of the world uses a metric system but we are still firmly entrenched in inches, feet and miles.)
We have to admit that from what we know about the grading system so far, we are not convinced that the new method offers any improvement in actual education.
We also understand that the district is hesitant to weigh in on the students' request (or even the grading system) ahead of the board's retreat.
Now is a good time for the community to do a little homework of its own. Take your cue from the kids and talk with your elected officials -- while they are gathering information.