Letters for the Better

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Townsend Harris students tend to care deeply about their grades and strive to do their best. If they feel unsatisfied with their academic record in a particular subject, they work hard to find the best course of action to improve their grades. However, while numerical averages throughout the year are useful in gauging a student’s progress in a class, the averages on report cards for the first marking period are skewed representations of a student’s work.

The first marking period is a time of adjustment for all students.  Whether students are transitioning from middle school to high school, or from sophomore to junior year, they are only just beginning to gain an understanding of their classes. The average that is given at this time is inherently a misrepresentation of a student’s capabilities. What they do in a class at that time does not determine how they will perform throughout the year. Students get so helped up in the numbers, down to the last decimal digit, that it becomes easy for them to get overwhelmed just two months into the school year. The averages given by teachers at the end of the first marking period are inaccurate, so teachers should return to giving letter grades rather than number grades in the first marking period.

In past years, the letter grades on report cards were E for excellent, S for satisfactory, N for needs improvement, and U for unsatisfactory. Students who received E’s were said to be scoring in the 90’s, while S’s represented the 80’s, N’s represented the 70’s, and the U’s represented the 60’s.  These letter grades gave the students a general view of how they were doing in their classes and were accompanied by personalized comments from teachers.

If reinstated, this system of grading would decrease the amount of stress among students, who in turn would receive a more accurate representation of their grade. The letter grade system for the first marking period would give students an idea of where they stand and how they can work up to an accurate number grade in the second marking period. The averages that are given in the first marking period are based on the work of a mere two months, so why should so much weight be held by these numbers? Students interested in seeing their number average can log on to the school’s grade book and see for themselves how they are doing numerically.

This change can only benefit the students, relieving them of undue stress during the transition period and giving them motivation to boost their grade as the year progresses.