Life in Middle School: Cayman International School’s new grading system

16 December 2019

By Jenna Hamilton

Cayman International School introduced a new grading system throughout middle school and high school this year. Instead of the usual percentage grades, students now get letters that range from As to Us. Many people are happy with the change, but others are not.

A number of students have expressed their disliking of the system, because they think that seeing the progress that they are making is important. This was easy to check with exact percentage grades, but now letters makes it less exact and can often cause uncertainty.

As 11th grader Josh Hamilton puts it, “I like percentage grades because it’s easier to see how well you did in a subject and it reflects exactly what you put into an assignment, while letter grades are a range.”

Eighth grader Erin Shaughness expresses a similar view, saying, “I am unable to see the weight each assignment has on my grade, and how close I am to the letter above my grade or the letter below my grade.”

However, some students seem to enjoy the new system.

Natalia Cuglari, another eighth grader at the school, prefers letter grades.

“I believe that the current system is better than the old one, and this is because I find it simpler and easier to understand,” she says. “It makes me feel less stressed about having the exact number when instead it’s an overall grade.”

Cayman International School Vice Principal Ben Calsbeek says the whole point of grades is to communicate more clearly to students and their parents what learning is taking place.

“The changes we have made in the system are designed completely to allow students, parents and teachers to have a better idea of what we mean by learning.”

Letter grades are supposed to help students worry less about how many points they’re getting and to care more about what exactly they have learned, along with the things they need to work on.

“One of the hopes we have with this change is again to try to figure out how to lessen stress,” Calsbeek says. “So if it is causing more stress, we need to work on fixing that because the intent is to do the exact opposite.”

While some students believe that letter grades are better, others want to go back to the old way of using percentages. However, since the change was only introduced at the start of the school year, opinions may change as students and parents have more time to weigh the benefits versus the drawbacks of the new grading system.

Jenna Hamilton is a Grade 8 student at Cayman International School.

This article originally appeared in the December 2019 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline “New grading system getting mixed reviews.”