Photo Credit: YouTube NYC Rat Gets Pizza

What Can Schools Learn from NYC Rats?

If you have been following social media lately, you may have seen that Schools across America have grading policies that are unfair, biased and disproportionately discriminate against low-income families.

This is a fact and it cannot be ignored. But I caution everyone reading this article from marching into your public school and demanding accountability. The cold hard truth is that the Principal and Teachers did not create the grading policies. They just follow them.

The real culprit and guilty party is the US College and University system that developed its grading policies to weed out students who should not graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree. Yes, I said “weed out.”

If you were unaware, the Colleges and Universities have zero incentive to graduate all of its students. They make their money on incoming Freshman, and on a small percentage of Alumni that make it big, who then donate back to the school.

It’s been going on for 100 years and no one cared because the vast majority of citizens never went to college. Until 1968, only about 10% of the population enrolled in college.

Those numbers in recent years has been increasing at a steady rate, and because College has become the objective for many school districts, it only make sense to use their grading policy.

But that’s where the trouble begins. The policies are not designed for all learners, again it’s designed to “weed out” the weaker students.

In a college setting that may make sense, but in a K-12 Public School that is the opposite of our goals. We want to be inclusive, we want to help all kids succeed, and we want to foster growth and development.

What can we do? We can actually do a lot. First, we do not need this grading policy. We can replace it with a grading system that already exists. And this is where NYC rats come in to the picture.

I know what you’re thinking, Rats from NYC? Disgusting!

And you would be right, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted a NYC Restaurant rating system that outlined the criteria for A, B and C and then sent its Health Inspectors to every single restaurant in the city and graded each establishment.

Restaurants that met the A-Standard were able to place an “A” placard in their front window. The rest were graded and given an opportunity to improve their grade. Be aware that if you visit NYC and the restaurant you eat at does not have an “A” placard in their window — they are just really lazy and bad at running a clean restaurant. No excuses.

How this works in class is simple. First the Teacher creates a rubric for grading. For Teachers that have never done this before, I suggest going to

Teachers can create rubrics for FREE.

Then, the Teacher has to spend at least 30 minutes reviewing the rubric with the students before the project. Then the Teacher can assign the project.

What this does is highlight for the students that all of them can earn an “A”. There are no barriers to getting good grades. It really is up to them. But this also gives the Teacher a better idea as to which students need academic support and which students need emotional support.

I have been doing this for 20 years, and it works with students who previously had been marginalized and forgotten in school. It’s a cornerstone to my new Teacher Workbook, the 1st Five Days, which incorporates this Grading Policy into a Social and Emotional Teaching tool.

We do not need to continue to hold students back, when reliable and bias-free systems exist.

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