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Andrew Hecht

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Should public schools in the United States eliminate the traditional A to F grading scale? And if so, what assessment do we replace it with?

In 5 months, at the age of 21, I will be graduating college from the University of Florida. Yet, it wasn't until recently that I began to realize how distorted my view of education has been for past 15 years of my life. From childhood, we are commonly "taught" (and indoctrinated) that when we receive "good grades", we are "good people" and "good students." Consequently, beginning around kindergarten, a child's self worth is defined on an "A" to "F" scale. From the perspective of a child, an "A" student is "good" and an "F" student is "bad".

This belief entirely distorts the real purpose of education. We are commonly driven to learn not for the sake of learning; but instead, we are motivated by the almighty grade. Growing up, rather than reading books for fun or curiosity, I commonly read only those books that were assigned. Rather than exploring new concepts, I stayed on the designated curriculum and track. And rather than creating new ideas after school, I completed my homework. By high school, my GPA became somewhat of a false deity, a barometer of self worth, and a ticket to future success. Sadly, a large number of my "academically successful" peers had an even more distorted view of education than I. In high school, I often saw students copying each others homework before class as a means to manipulate the system. School was not about learning, it was about recieiving high grades. In college, this same manipulation manifests itself every time I hear a student say "I'm not taking Professor X's class because it's hard and I need an "A" for grad/law/med school."

Moreover, not only does the "A" to "F" scale seem flawed but the standards we measure as well. Commonly, in public schools we measure math, science, and reading but deny the students who excel in dance, singing, painting, building, and poetry the self worth of receiving an "A" in their area of expertise.

Should pub. schools in the US eliminate the traditional A to F grading scale? Is there a better way?

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  • Dec 26 2011: I don't think you are looking at this in the most productive manner. Failures and failing are ok concepts to have. Without such how do you get successes and success?
    The grading system itself could change but it would only be superficial. It is in our nature if not our actual nature to win and lose. Institutional learning is for the masses which by definition fails most people. Learning needs to be made more part of life and the family structure (becasue that is themost common structure of life groups today). Look to how Finland do it and their successes. Young people or their guardians need to get a better understanding of what success means for the kids and work towards a more individualized education. We send kids off to school more happy for the peace and quiet at home than any sense of giving them world preparedness.
    There will always be failing along the way but in the end the prize should be success for the individual, whatever that looks like for them
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html

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