The Wisdom of Students Part 1: A teacher’s epiphany

UnfairJPEGI received this email from English teacher Steve Hettleman after his AP language students researched education policy and wrote essays about their perfect school.  I served on a panel of experts who listened to the presentations and asked questions.  I will write Part 2 about their ideas next but this email speaks for itself:

“I love when my students make me see things in ways I never considered them before. This from one of today’s Ideal School presentations in AP.

Our current grading practice treats two people who are farther apart in achievement more equally than it treats two students who are closer, even almost identical, in achievement.

“If we stuck strictly to our scales, a student who earn a 79.5% would earn the exact same GPA as the kid who earned an 89.4%, but the kid who earned an 89.4% would earn a completely different GPA from the kid who earned an 89.5%.  In a semester where kids can potentially earn a total of 1000 points, the first scenario says that the kid who earned 99 points more than his peer is closer to that peer than he is to the other peer who earned 1 single, measly point more. (Even if you account for the fact that some of us bump a kid on a borderline grade, the basic fact holds true.)

“In what world other than a school would this make sense? It seems to me that the only reason we translate from a percentage to a letter grade/gpa– hell, the only reason we translate from meeting a standard to a percentage grade in the first place—is to satisfy colleges.

“In essence, we create MORE work for ourselves, and that ADDITIONAL work results in a system that is ILLOGICAL and UNFAIR. This seems to be the definition of madness.”

What do you think about our current 100 point percentage based grading scale?

Next: The students’ ideas on how to make great schools.