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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 28 2011: Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have a system whereby a member gets a merit badge when they become proficient at a particular task. The members can choose which badges they will work for and do not get the badge until they are proficient at that particular task. I suggest using this system, especially in developed countries where computers will allow individual instruction.

    The sky would become the limit in education (and the galaxy for a few). The artists, athletes and musicians could have a banner (or collar or jacket) full of badges that they have achieved to wear proudly even though algebra might be incomprehensible to them. Competition would increase as kids would want their banner full of badges; instead of just quitting as a failure they would master the skills that they are capable of mastering.

    Certain badges would be a requirement for each year of school and could be broken down into a weekly set of requirements where a child never gets "lost" in the system as the teacher would know each Fri. which students needed assistance in particular areas.

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