DIKSHA MHATRE '26 & VANI MITTAL '26
You turn in a project, and your teacher gives you a B-. In another section of the same course, your friend turns in a similar project and receives an A. The only distinction: you and your friend have different teachers. This scenario is played out on a much larger scale throughout humanities classes, where students’ skills are assessed based on their teacher’s standards instead of a clear cut grading system, like the STEM department utilizes. Standardization, typically implemented through shared rubrics and course content, enables students to receive a fair and equal education, where students can feel like their work is graded constructively and accurately, regardless of their teacher. While teachers are bound to have different styles of presenting content and delivering feedback on assignments, the grading betweens sections of the same class needs to be standardized; currently, only the STEM department has a fair grading system in terms of teachers collaborating over utilizing a shared rubric.
We decided to interview a World History and US History I teacher, Ms. Maddox, to get her perspective on standardized classes. Ms. Maddox has been teaching for about 20 years, prioritizing a traditional, often memorization and application based education to challenge and encourage her students’ critical thinking skills. She recognizes and supports the humanities classes’ subjective form of grading, claiming that the "best parts of life are subjective," stating that this subjective approach increases readiness for life beyond high school. Job interviews, for example, are subjective at their core; one interviewer might love a candidate while another interviewer might not relate to the same interviewee as much. In the same way, humanities teachers view and grade assignments according to their own judgment and belief system. Ms. Maddox avoids using rubrics to decrease the pressure of grading and says, “Students in my experience write for a rubric; a rubric acts as a ceiling, rather than a platform, and is limiting student potential.” Ms. Maddox would rather the emphasis be on student capabilities, creativity and deep thinking instead of focusing only on grades that reinforce academic competition and stress surrounding achieving a strong GPA. Overall, like many teachers in the department, Ms. Maddox believes that students thrive without the barriers of rubrics. She thinks that the love of learning comes from finding a class that truly clicks with a student. The subject, particular student mix, and the unique qualities of a teacher enable students to better develop their educational passions.
At its core, the education system promotes grades over learning and real-world application, so taking away rubrics from humanities classes does not solve the larger issue of students leaving high school feeling drained and lacking a love for learning. Rather, eliminating rubrics from humanities classes creates an unfair and biased environment as opposed to the STEM department, which creates an equal system as teachers grade based on a standardized rubric. Humanities classes that invoke rubrics for evaluating student writing are vague and open to interpretation, ultimately creating discrepancies between courses with different teachers. According to the BBC, “An international study found a 10% advantage in teachers' grades for those seen as being likable, compared with results in anonymous exams.” While this bias is less prevalent in STEM classes because grading is more structured and bias can be easily identified, humanities teachers have more room to unconsciously evaluate a student based on their mannerisms and identity in class. However, a student’s behavior has no relation to an assignment that they complete, and the grade they receive should solely reflect their skills. If a standardized method of grading was implemented in humanities classes, mood and bias would not play a role in grading; thus, students would receive the accurate grades they deserve.
The debate regarding whether there are more benefits or drawbacks to standardized classes is controversial, especially considering that grades are core components in the lives of students and teachers. Financial complications and varied opinions about standardization suggest that the district will not see standardized humanities classes for a while, if ever. However, the district should eventually work toward this change because standardization is the only way to ensure a fair education for all students in terms of grading in humanities classes.