EDUCATION: More than job-training

Don’t Rely on Letter Grades

letter grades A+ B C D- FHere is what the grades of A, B, C, D, and F are supposed to mean:

A and B: superior achievement and mastery of the subject and skill in presentation.

C : adequate mastery of the subject. For example, a C in English should indicate that the student is able to write complete sentences, spell basic vocabulary, and use grammatical structures correctly.

D: some learning is taking place, but the minimum has not been mastered. For the student of English, a D should indicate that the student may be doing the assigned work, but has not mastered basic grammar, composition, and spelling skills and lacks adequate reading skills.

F: failure to demonstrate a practical application of the subject matter.

Here is what these grades sometimes seem to mean:

A: student does all the work and is always present and pleasant.

B: student does most of the work, perhaps not well, but is always present and pleasant.

C: student comes to class, turns in at least some of the work, and doesn’t act up.

D: student comes to class, tries to do some of the work, and has a nice personality and/or is on the football team.

F: student rarely comes to class, never turns in assignments, is rude and disruptive, and doesn’t have parents or a coach who will complain.

According the statistics posted at the Center for Education Reform site, 2,997,748 teachers staff 94,112 public schools in the United States. Only an extreme idealist could imagine that A, B, C, D, and F mean the same in all the classrooms in all these schools. The United States is not Garrison Keelor’s Lake Woebegone, and not all our children are producing “above average” work.

At the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Basic Writing is a non-credit course required of students who are admitted with an English ACT score of 18 or lower.

Sometimes entering freshmen are glad to have the opportunity to improve their writing skills before taking the Composition I course.

More often, the young men and women who find themselves routed to Basic Writing are angry and resentful, especially the ones who were bringing home As and Bs in high school English. They have every right to be angry. Their teachers deceived them regarding their level of literacy.

Any high school graduate, not just one going on to college, any high school graduate should not be making the errors still being committed in freshman English classes—remedial or otherwise.

I’ve taught at the high school level. I know what goes on. Teachers, especially English teachers, work in conditions that no other professionals would put up with for a few weeks, let alone years. They deal with over-sized classes that include “students” with criminal records who come to school once a week, not to learn, but to network.

Some teachers finally reach the point at which they are happy if a child turns in any work at all. They bestow As and Bs on students who do the minimum. Students who turn in the occasional assignment receive Cs, and the ones the teacher doesn’t want to see again the following semester, or who have threatened to slash the teacher’s tires, get Ds.

Most teachers do their best to adhere to standards of academic excellence, but forces outside their control can corrupt their standards, at least from time to time. Parents would do well to test the validity of the grades that their children are bringing home.

They can do this by performing their own informal evaluations at home.