Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Rubic's cube

School once again begins and the world returns to normal. As I read through the local rag an 'editor' letter jumped off the page at me. Read me and respond, it dutifully flirted. I will.

The premise of the letter was that grades in schools are harmful to the U.S. school system. The writer states they are unnecessary and that students should be assessed via 'rubics, checklists and narratives...that reveal what the student knows and can do'. It also states that grades are meaningless. The author is a Director at a research institute.

There are several issues I have here. One being the system she would envision would never last. The grading scale works fine on its premise, however it has been bastardized to such an extent that it isn't worth the ink the letter is printed with. But such a system that she would espouse would very quickly befall the same fate. The problem is a world of teacher unions, school boards and other affiliations that have their own agendas. Your rubics and checklists would soon crumble under the weight. A rubic is an authoritative rule of conduct or procedure. Well, isn't that what the grade scale is supposed to be?

It was long long ago in the mesozoic epoch that an A meant the student understood ninety percent of the material, a B eighty percent and so on. In the Catholic schools where I was educated, a student must hit a ninety-three to receive an A, eighty-five for a B. With the introduction of extra credit one does not need to know the material but can up the grade by doing extra work or by taking honors courses. That is part and parcel from a phase not long ago that espoused not making the student feel worthless or bad because they didn't make the grade. If the student can't master the material, you flunk them, don't ease them forward hoping they at some point 'get it'. When more schools began to change from A to a 4.0 scale with 4.0 being the top, how is it then students now get 4.3's and more. Schools themselves have taken the grading scale and flushed it down the urinal and they have no one to blame but themselves, their teachers and affiliations.

The world grades everyone daily in their jobs and performances both professional and personal. Sheltering children from this reality does more harm that good. One learns more by failing occasionally than sailing through because someone didn't want their feelings hurt. Silly me, I thought a rubic was a brightly colored plastic cube.


  1. Might be that he should have been referring to a rubric, which is a set outline for how something is to be graded. Obviously, for someone in a research institution, he's had a breakdown if he confuses a rubic with a rubric. Or maybe, as a teacher, I am out of touch with his reality? Particularly since I work in a Catholic school with that same old-fashioned grading scale?

  2. Miracle Baby and BigFoot take AP classes that are based on a 5 point grading scale, but that's in high school. At this point, if Miracle Baby went to Carnegie Melon, she would have 23 credits, based on her three AP tests where she received "5s" as the testing grade. That doesn't count the three AP courses she's taking this year. I think she'll start as a Sophomore due to testing out and credits. I believe that if they are giving high schoolers college level courses, then it's okay for them to use the 5 point scale for those classes. However, in all other classes, the grades should be based on the work, not on the hoped for outcome in order to meet state mandated testing goals. If you mastered the work, then you get an A - don't do it, you flunk. I don't believe that simply for showing up a student should receive a C - the desk is there, so it should also get a C? Where's the real accountability and why have we let ourselves lose sight of producing functioning adults, not those who can pass a test but can't function in the real world.

  3. Off my soap box and off to work!