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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 30 2011: I am a senior in high school and getting ready to go to college. The dude next to me in algebra honors freshman year barely squeaked out a B, while I just barely missed an A. Colleges don't see that, they see our grades as equal. I think the A-F is too simplistic of a grading scale. At minimum, there needs to be pluses and minuses. However, I also think that is as far as it should go. The grading scale cannot be too complex either, since everyone has to be able to work with it.
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      Dec 31 2011: Thanks for your response Derek. You say you want a plus and minus scale now. But trust me Ias a college senior myself) you wont be saying this during college. At most schools, an A is a 4.0 on your GPA where as an A- drops you dramatically to a 3.67. Very few colleges (in fact, none in Florida) use pluses in calculating GPA.

      Wait three years, after your GPAs been royally screwed over on multiple occasions by the minus scale and you'll change your opinion. But I remember thinking like you once lol

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