I wrote this letter to the NY Times in response to their recent article on the 1-4 grading system that more and more schools are using instead of letter grades:
The new numerical system distracts from the real issue, which is what it now takes to earn top grades--especially in math. "Performance goes beyond standard" and "Independently explores ideas and topics" are two of the criteria listed on the Philadelphia School System's standards-based report card. But the Pennsylvania math standards are so low, and the standards-based curriculum so easy, that students have no opportunity to exceed the standards by doing harder problems. If they want top grades, rather, they must explain and illustrate their answers to today's easy problems as elaborately and neatly as possible, and, as one of our teachers puts it, "solve problems in multiple ways without being told to." The more mathematically inclined you are, the more inane you will find these requirements. Top grades no longer go to those who are best at math, but to those who are most eager to game the system.I discuss a specific instance of this grade reversal in a previous post. Where will it lead, and why aren't more people up in arms about it?