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Two and Two Might Not Make Five, But 20% and 20% Now Average to 50%
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One way for schools to create the perception of equitability in achievement is to make tests progressively easier year-over-year. Last year the smarts averaged 90 and the dulls averaged 50. This year, the test’s difficulty has decreased so markedly that the smarts now average a perfect 100 and the dulls a 90. Voila, we’ve cut the achievement gap to a fourth of its previous size! Pittsburgh is employing a similar stratagem:

Pittsburgh Public Schools officials say they want to give struggling children a chance, but the district is raising eyebrows with a policy that sets 50 percent as the minimum score a student can receive for assignments, tests and other work. …

While some districts use “F” as a failing grade, the city uses an “E.”

“The ‘E’ is to be recorded no lower than a 50 percent, regardless of the actual percent earned. For example, if the student earns a 20 percent on a class assignment, the grade is recorded as a 50 percent,” said the memo from Jerri Lippert, the district’s executive director of curriculum, instruction and professional development, and Mary VanHorn, a PFT vice president.

This method is even worse than softening the tests. Instead of lying to the dulls by telling them they’re smart, this embraces dullness as being just a couple paces from smartness.

The lettering system is silly:

A student receives an “A” for scores ranging from 100 percent to 90 percent, a “B” for scores ranging from 89 percent to 80 percent, a “C” for scores ranging from 79 percent to 70 percent, a “D” for scores ranging from 69 percent to 60 percent and an “E” for scores ranging from 59 percent to the cutoff, 50 percent.

Seems E should come before F, no?

I remember on rare occasions receiving an “E” for some non-academic measure, like displaying a positive attitude. The E stood for “excellent”. I’m glad the grading scale hadn’t yet been turned on its head in the nineties!

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
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  1. In grade school, we had 'U's (Unsatisfactory) in place of 'F's. I read a few years ago in a local paper that there was a policy recommendation that teachers not use red pens.

    In university, they used "NP."

  2. I'll give them an E for effort.

  3. How about a T for trying?

    As for the school administrators, I'd give them an S for stupidity.

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