In today’s high-pressure, must-get-into-college climate, many high-performing students attempt to maximize their scores before anything else. They grade-grub and burn the midnight oil studying to turn their A’s into A+’s. These habits are endemic to a culture of increased classroom stress levels and tension, in which getting perfect or near-perfect grades is more important than actually learning or forming meaningful social connections.
Most high schools and colleges just emphasize earning an A rather than an A+, and use a 4.00 GPA scale wherein A+’s are calculated as though they were A’s. IHS, however, factors A+’s into students’ GPAs, using a 4.33 GPA scale wherein A+’s are weighted towards that extra 0.33 at the top. This leads one to wonder: if IHS simply made every grade above a 92 the same and reported the grade as an A to colleges, what would be different?
We at The Tattler believe that the change would increase an emphasis on learning and make classes a lot more fun to be in—for everyone.
Most importantly, students would be better able to work towards getting an education, not just a grade. In few classes does a sound knowledge of all course content get a student exactly a 100; likely such understanding would be graded somewhere in the 90s. After all, no one is perfect. Yet grades—not learning—are on students’ transcripts. If a comprehensive grasp of course material is the goal, then it should be awarded the maximum grade. Thus it makes sense to not discriminate between an A and an A+, in the same way that AP exams do not discriminate between 80 percent and 90 percent; both scores are reported as a 5 and show a fair degree of mastery. Students who took AP exams last year should remember that the 1–5 grading scale—with the boundary between a 4 and 5 at roughly 70 percent of questions answered correctly—did a lot to make the difficult tests more relaxed. Students could focus on showing a fair amount of mastery rather than nitpicking over a few tricky questions.
So who doesn’t benefit? Aside from whoever has to change the documents in which grades are reported, anyone—people and organizations like that arrogant kid in your math class or the reach school you apply to—who evaluates students solely on their grades might just have to grow up and realize that school should be about experiences and learning, not a number.
Emphasizing excellence over perfection would also make classes more relaxed, as fewer students would work to get every last possible point, benefiting even students who rarely get above a 90. Fewer students would have unproductive arguments with teachers over the wording of questions, or lie awake at night brooding over a yet-ungraded test. Less stress is good for everyone, as is class time spent learning and not fighting over the context of a specific multiple-choice question.
Removing the incentive for students to desire perfection can make small mistakes seem less undesirable, which would lead to an environment in which students feel comfortable asking more questions rather than pretending they know what they’re doing. Saying “You did fine” might take its literal meaning, rather than “Stop agonizing over it!”