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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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  • Jan 11 2012: I guess it depends on what or who such letter grades serve ... for potential employees it is a unidimensional way to measure you against the herd in terms of perceived academic excellence ... it could just as well reflect an ability to cram for exams successfully, show that you have a great mind, prove you are a able to cheat sneakily, that you have mastered great exam technique or that you are an erudite scholar.

    It does not necessarily indicate you have a grasp on the fundamentals of the various topics.

    Our education system has the hidden curriculum and message that says if you get good marks you will be a success and get a good job etc.

    There are so many aspects of intelligence ... the ability to apply learning, to adapt it, to communicate it and to synergise with other disciplines ....

    Our world is too obsessed with how athletic, beautiful, rich, connected we are rather than shifting to a different paradigm where we value each other in the total honesty and effort we put int o living together in harmony ..

    That is the real "win win" that educatio has to work on ... not just rote learing but teaching kids how to think and also how to act ethically.

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