Changing Grade Scales: Much Ado about Nothing (It Just Doesn’t Matter)

South Carolina’s new superintendent of education has proposed that the state change (again, as last time it was about state-wide uniformity) to a 10-point grade scale to put our students in line with neighboring states.

This plan has mostly been met with a sky-is-falling response, for example: “The last thing South Carolina schools need to do is water down academic requirements for students.”

While I already realize from my continuing effort to explain that in the standards debate, notably the most recent Common Core debacle, almost no one will acknowledge that the quality of standards or even the presence or not of standards has proven to have no impact on measurable student outcomes (and thus, the standards debate is much ado about nothing), I must stress here that whatever our grade scale is or however we change it is also much ado about nothing.

The grade scale is pretty functional, just as our monetary systems are across countries. When we travel from the U.S. to Europe, the money scales change, but it does not impact in any way the inherent value of anything.

The relative costs of things, yes, are affected slightly, but the money system is an abstraction.

So is a grade scale. If an A is 90-100 or 93-100, it is still a relative and subjective thing to assign an artifact of learning or a student during a grading period that A.

Efforts to unify grade scales within or among states is folly—just as the whole Common Core debacle was.

These are pointless wastes of time and energy in pursuit of standardization without regard for that goal being of almost no value to anyone.

Changing the grade scale in one state to create something like fairness among students from different states is probably futile, but it is practical enough that it is fine to do.

To shout that changing a grade scale is either lower or raising expectations, however, is just plain silly.

Stop it.

This grade scale is much ado about nothing—and it just doesn’t matter.

One comment

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse

    This is just more top down crap from the want-to-be authoritarian dictators that are funding this war on community based, non-profit, transparent, democratic public educaiton and the public school teachers that work in those public schools. It is obvious to me that the Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Koch and Waltons of the world want to control every aspect of everyone else’s lives.

    The grade scale that I used as a teacher for thirty years reflected the work the students turned in – not test scores or who was allegedly smarter or had a higher IQ than anyone else. But there were children who felt they earned an A just be being there even if they did no work to learn. For instance, if a student turned in half of an assignment and that work was correct, that student earned credit for half of the work—not a zero. At the end of each grading period, what the students earned based on what the value of all the work assigned was turned into a grade: A, B, C, D or F (earning an F meant the student didn’t do enough of the work that leads to learning what the teacher taught), and there were challenging alternative assignments called extra credit that were designed to offer students other options than the mandated class work and homework.

    If an hourly paid employee works four hours and then leaves work and goes home early, does that employee get paid for eight? What do we do with the employee that doesn’t even show up for work? If a student is absent half of the year and does little or no work, what should they earn on a report card. I think a report is like a pay check. It reveals what the student earned while learning from the work the teacher taught and assigned.

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