Monday, March 3, 2014

Grades Gotta Go! (Part 2: "100 Degrees of Separation")

The first issue with most current grading systems is the 100-point scale
A couple problems contribute to the inappropriate use of the 100-point scale.
One is how we use it to calculate percentage grades. The other is the disproportionate weight that zeros have on grades.

First, this blog post raises the concern of calculating percentages to determine students' averages. Consider the problems described and whether you agree or disagree with them.

Second, Rick Wormeli does a fabulous job of breaking down a number of the difficulties with the 100-point scale and, in particular, giving zeros on this scale

If you are a parent, then what questions does this make you want to ask?

If you are a teacher, how would you respond to the claims made in Rob Eberts' blog and Rick Wormeli's video

One final thought about taking on the 100-point scale. It may seem impossible to address something so embedded in our assessment practices. The 100-point scale is easily accepted as part of our educational system by parents, teachers, and students alike. Why mess with a "good" thing?

Consider this. If it such a good practice, then why it is abandoned by both "ends" of most educational institutions? None of the schools where I live use it when children are starting out in preschool or early elementary grade levels. On the other end, college students have used 4, 5, or 6-point scales for years. I realize those numbers are sometimes nothing more than conversions from a 100-point scale, but I wonder what the original intent was for doing it that way.

We could argue that it is used all over the world, but that's not true. Denmark is an example of a nation that uses a 13-point scale. Belgium, France, Portugal, Peru, and Venezuela are a handful of countries that use a 20-point scale. Even states in the U.S. are beginning to introduce legislation and policies regarding the communication of student progress on different scales.

I am not arguing that we should model our education programs or policies after any of these nations or even our own American university system, which is fraught with its own problems. The point is to show that there is nothing sacred about the 100-point scale. It is flawed and we can do better for our kids!

As I write this blog, the Winter Olympics are going on in Sochi, Russia. At least maybe the 100-point scale is all they use there. Oh, wait, that's right...oops!

1 comment:

  1. Interestingly, the 100-point scale was not part of the "invention" of grading systems for academic purposes. Some argue that William Farish introduced grading to the school system in the 1790's. In the early 1800's, Yale first used a 4-level scale. Other universities soon followed with various breakdowns and categories, eventually giving form to our letter grades (A-F, which was really A-D with an F for 'Fail'). One anomaly is that one institution actually started with a 200-point scale to rank students in some classes, and later shifted to a 100-point scale.

    Bottom line in all of this is that today the 100-point scale is being mis-used in most cases to give grossly inaccurate and ambiguous information about student achievement. There are also arbitrary divisions of the scale all over the place (what constitutes an 'A' in one place does not necessarily equal an 'A' in another place).

    And all of these problems are before you even start the discussion about the problem with giving zeros on the 100-point scale, which is disastrous!