Teachers in NRW will have to censor their students’ reliability with immediate effect. That’s 15 million additional grades and a lot of trouble for the state government.
Being nicely behaved pays off again. Picture: dpa
On Friday, students will receive their mid-year report cards. Teachers in North Rhine-Westphalia will have to award around 15 million more grades than before. In accordance with the will of the black-yellow state government, behavioral grades must now be included alongside assessments of performance in mathematics or German – six in fact.
Willingness to perform, reliability, independence, willingness to take responsibility, conflict behavior and the ability to cooperate – the teachers had to evaluate all these points. Four grades were used: "very good," "good," "satisfactory" and "unsatisfactory. The rule applies from the third grade onward, and the "head grades" must also appear on the final report card and in the Abi.
Six grades for a student’s work and social behavior – that is a German record, but a highly controversial one. Teachers’, students’ and parents’ associations are just as unwilling to accept the new regulation as the opposition parties in the state parliament. For tomorrow, Saturday, the state student council has even called for a statewide demonstration in Dusseldorf. The student representatives say: "Head grades are like pimples." Board member Horst Wenzel: "We want the superfluous grades to disappear quickly."
GEW state chairman Andreas Meyer-Lauber speaks of a "pedagogical nonsense" for which two teaching days per year were cancelled. Even the conservative Philologen-Verband, not averse in principle to head grades, is complaining about the "bureaucracy monster" that Schools Minister Barbara Sommer (CDU) has created. "We are fighting grade inflation," said Philologen-Verband head Peter Silbernagel. "The ongoing criticism from schools shows that the head grades apparently do not pass the practical test," also criticized Udo Beckmann, the state chairman of the Education Association. "People’s work and social behavior cannot be expressed in a numerical grade."
A relic of school policy from the gray past has returned to North Rhine-Westphalia’s schools. As elsewhere, the head grades – at the time, by the way, there were "only" three: conduct, diligence at home and participation in class – had disappeared from report cards by the mid-1970s. They were notorious as an authoritarian instrument of discipline against recalcitrant students, and did not fit in with the reform mood of the time. Only in Baden-Wurttemberg did they continue to be used without interruption. And in the GDR. In the school system there, there were four grades for order, diligence, cooperation and behavior until 1989. In Saxony and Brandenburg, they have since returned, and in other states such as Bavaria, head grades are also back in vogue.
School Minister Sommer justifies the head grades renaissance by saying that she wants to promote work and social behavior. "Students and their parents have a right to clear and understandable feedback and assessments in this area of development," she says. Her predecessor, Ute Schafer, who has since become vice chair of the SPD parliamentary group in the state parliament, considers head grades to be an unsuitable tool: "Numerical grades for work and social behavior are not only pedagogical humbug, but also lead to injustice and arbitrariness. In the meantime, the LSV has called on all students to formally appeal against any head grades worse than "good".