No Letter Grades in Language Courses a Real Consideration

Summer Crown Recently there have been rumors going around that foreign language classes will no longer be giving letter grades. While those rumors are exciting, they need to be debunked (at least, for now). The reality of the situation is that Ms. Landis, and other members of the language department, have decided to enforce a new standards-based grading system, specifically in Latin Language classes. This system is similar to the structure that has been set by AAPPL in Chinese, Spanish, and French in the last year. However, Ms. Landis’s class structure is different, since Latin it is an unspoken language, and thus does not apply to the general AAPPL guidelines. In the standards based system that is used by Latin language classes, guidelines to move from one proficiency level to next are clearly stated, similar to the structure in other language classes. Students are expected to demonstrate certain skills at each level, though in the Latin language, these skills are based not only on their ability to communicate, read, and write, but also to make arguments and support them using historical evidence. These skills are easily compared to “I can” statements in each of the proficiency levels, instead of being associated to a number or letter grade. The proficiency level and standards based gradings structure allows students to understand what exactly is expected of them to make progress in the language. That way, teachers can easily explain to their students what areas they excel in and what areas they need to work on to become a proficient Latin student. Like anything that is new and different, Ms. Landis firmly believes that, “you have to figure things out as you go.” Latin language classes are taught in a unique way compared to all of the other language classes, so the structure and its questions must be approached and thought about more cautiously. Because language teachers still have to give out grade reports, they also face the struggle of translating the proficiency level system into the traditional system. What if a student’s comprehension of the Latin language cannot be defined by one, single letter? Even so, one student’s B at our school could be an A at another. The traditional grading system, especially for language, has drastically different meanings across American high schools. Defining a student by their status in a language rather than a grade could be much more meaningful, and make their progress more tangible. This change would cause students to focus more on improving in their language-speaking abilities than receiving a certain grade. Often, a goal of receiving that grade distracts language learners from actually developing and enjoying the course. For now, all Latin language students will follow the structure of proficiency levels while continuing to receive traditional grades. Hopefully, though, the standards based grading system will soon replace our current traditional one and reduce students’ general stress surrounding foreign language classes.]]>