Proposal for an Alternate Grading System

As my profession is that of being a teacher, one of my concerns has always been the efficiency of assessing student’s knowledge. Some ideas (standardized tests) simply do not work. However, as a fellow mod has pointed out, the grading system itself is not an efficient measure to a student’s knowledge of application of any particular subject.

The main problem with the grading system (to be defined as the system that gives grades like A’s and B’s) is that it creates a caste system for students. You get the students that receive A’s, those who generally get B’s, and so forth. The A students are then touted around as being geniuses with hope for the future, while the F and D students are treated as failures by the faculty, which in turn leads their fellow students to treat them as such as well. Further, this grading system is nonsensical when you stop and think about it: there’s a distinction between an A(100%-90%) and a B(89%-80%), but why not a distinction between an A that scored 91% and one that scored 98%?

I propose abolishing this system and replacing it with one that is much simpler; one with a mere 3 grades. I call it the PNI System. There are only three grades total: P for Pass (received a score between 100-75%) and N for No Pass (lower than 75%). The third and final grade, I, stands for Incomplete (speaks for itself). Those who receive a P are allowed to move on to the next lesson/grade as normal, while those who get an N are either given tutorial sessions and a make-up exam (if the N was for an exam) or made to repeat the class (if the student does not pass a sufficient number of exams). Those who get an I are allowed a chance to defend their reasons for not being able to complete their exam/class, which will then be reviewed by the faculty. In cases of physical conditions that prevent the student from finishing the lesson or class, the faculty shall negotiate with the student a manageable and convenient schedule that will allow their to finish the class or retake the exams.

The former system is not only inefficient, it sends the student the wrong message regarding education. An ‘A’ typically stands for excellent work, while a B means above average. This can (and has) lead to various students who typically receive A’s to suddenly have panic attacks when they get their first B. Getting a B isn’t bad, we’re often told, but many parents refuse to accept that their straight A student got a B, and so they increase their work load. A C is an “average,” meaning that there is nothing inherently wrong with the grade. But a C student is seen as an underachiever, someone with no hope of being anything more than “just another face in the multitude.” Getting D’s and F’s are seen as signs of failure. It shouldn’t be like this!

The system I propose is much softer on students. Getting a P means you Pass, you’re ready to keep on going. Getting an N doesn’t mean you fail, it means you are not yet ready for the next lesson, try again. There’s something you did wrong or something you didn’t understand, find out what that is so you can Pass next time. The I merely indicates the student is not yet done with the lesson and needs an accommodation. The previous system teaches kids that they only get one shot at success in life; mine teaches that you can get back up if you ever fall down.

Which system sounds better to you?