Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A new/old/new idea for grades and college entrance

So, please tell me why, again, we need separate tests (SAT and ACT) to gain entrance into colleges in the US? Well, maybe it's because of the unreliability of grading scales in U.S. schools. Okay, that's not a new observation. Even less new is the solution. Canadian schools grade on a percentage. So, instead of being awarded an "A" in a class, you are awarded your exact numeric score, expressed as a percentage, like "93%." So, while American schools are dickering about what constitutes an "A," Canadian schools bypass the need for SATs and ACTs by delivering those exact scores to colleges. Schools can tell the difference between someone who barely earned that letter grade from someone who obviously did well in the class.

Here's part of the problem with letter grades: assignment percentage to letter grade (rounded) then back to a number with only a 4-digit spread (more rounding). So, even though a grade-point average attempts to distinguish "strong A" from "weak A," it's already so far removed from the original score in the class that it's meaningless.

Gotta save this conversation with a graduate of Canadian schools:

Kahleida> yeah general admittance is based on grades... which in Canada are a percentage, not a GPA... so they look at the exact grade, ie if you get 86% in the class, you have 86% on the report card... and classes are harder in Canada, but they make an A larger... A=80% and above, if you get 90% or more it means you are doing very well
xyb> oh!! I like the percentage idea!
xyb> that's much more exact
Kahleida> yes I much prefer percentages
xyb> too much rounding isn't good.
xyb> think about it... percentage to letter grade (rounded) then back to a number with only a 4-digit spread (more rounding). that makes for a very generalized assessment
Kahleida> it's more standard too... A is always 80%+ vs the States where it seems like each teacher could decide what an A is
xyb> well, at least *districts* decide now.
xyb> but they're trying to establish a national standard.
xyb> with a percentage scale, it wouldn't matter, though! that's cool!
xyb> I could lobby for this
Kahleida> yeah with standard grading procedures there is no real need for stupid generalized tests which don't really reflect how someone performed in school
xyb> it's so simple that we all missed it

So, eliminate the letter-grade ranges, and you can go back to properly assessing *complete* classroom performance, by the teacher who spent the whole semester with that particular student. After all, we are all learning how little standardized tests are quantifying, anyway. But that's for another post.

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