Why Was the Cross-Grade Invented?

Monday, February 21, 2022 - By: Neve M, Hope ‘23

What is the one thing all English classes at Brentwood have in common? From towering Grade 12s to fresh-faced 9s, all students are mandated to write the cross-grades. The cross-grades are a compilation of English exercises that happen three times every year and never cease to make students sweat - intellectually.

This week is the cross-grade LRP week, and every English student will be sitting down to write a perfect in-class LRP.

Unsure of what an LRP is?

A literary response paragraph is notorious around Brentwood; all classes employ its use and find themselves writing numerous LRPs a year. In simple terms, students receive a ‘text’ prior to the LRP, usually a poem or a short story, they then receive a prompt, related to the text, and are expected to write a small and rich paragraph answering the prompt.

These prompts are diverse and are designed to keep students on their toes. They always consist of high-level open-ended questions that require a strong sense of reasoning to answer. Some specific examples of the prompts include “What is the purpose of this text?” or “What is the significance of the literary devices in this text?” Each prompt is intensely thought-out, just as the response is expected to be flavourful and juicy.

The purpose of an LRP is to create a deeper understanding of a passage, logical analysis and concise writing. The purpose of a cross-grade is, however, “practically never spoken of. No one really knows why we do the cross-grades or why they are only three times a year. No one has ever really thought to ask” affirms Felicity B, Hope ‘23.

Starting down the path to find the true history and meaning of the cross-grades was a rocky and uncertain one, but before the truth could surface, the challenge of the cross-grades first had to be considered. “Everyone I know shudders when a cross-grade is announced. It is simply a small paragraph, but it always seems to carry so much weight and is quite daunting. The prompt always makes you think and is fairly challenging” shares Lisa M, Hope ‘22.

Finally, upon finding out about the colourful history of the cross-grade, it is obvious that this assessment device was not a feat of deep historical significance, but enough to certainly justify the teachers’ deep love for the universal task. “From the time Mr Collis set foot in the English Department, his hunger for power and clear favoritism were apparent. Once he became instructional leader, his ego grew. So intimidating was he, Sauron in the Colliseum, that no one dared challenge his new marking rubrics. Steelers fan? You get Extending (in the old days, 10/10). Rams fan? Emerging. His department knew they had to rein him in before it was too late. In a valiant attempt to thwart the evil genius, Ganley, Reynolds, Widenmaier, Melhuish, and Hedquist created the cross-grade assessment, thus neutralizing Collis thrice each year. By assigning the same task and text, using the same rubric, and marking one another's students, the English Department not only deflated Collis' power but also ensured that each teacher held the same standards”, recalled Ms Hedquist, thinking back to the old days.

Some say the view is better than the journey, in this case, the journey is superior to the view. The purpose of the cross-grade is seemingly another way for the English Department to stay fair and measured, but the real fun and challenge of the cross-grade that students experience has no real comparison.

Hopefully, as English students sat down to write the cross-grade LRP last week, some thought a little deeper than just one paragraph - perhaps all the way back to when Mr Collis reigned supreme over the English Department. The stability of the English Department, Brentwood, and education itself rests on the shoulders of the cross-grade.

And yes, that is both hyperbole and personification contributing to the theme of intellectual challenge in Neve M’s insightful blog article “Why Was the Cross-Grade Invented?”

Neve M, Hope ‘23

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