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Ask Marilyn: Is Grade Padding Fair?

Name withheld in Baltimore writes:

Marilyn: I teach at a public high school. Our administrator has been pressuring us to “pad the grades.” For example, he says students should be given “50” no matter how low they score on an assignment. His argument is that on the five-point GPA scale, A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, and F=0, so the same ratio should apply to percentage grades. Many teachers at my school would be indebted to you if you could help prove him wrong.

Marilyn responds:

Nice try, Mr. Administrator! First, you can’t justify modifying the grading scale at your school unless other schools follow suit. (And if they do, you won’t improve your school’s standing.)

That said, let’s look at the proposal’s logic. It implies that percentage grades should be the same as letter grades, as though 90 to 100 percent is an A, 80 to 89 percent is a B, 70 to 79 percent is a C, 60 to 69 percent is a D, and 50 to 59 percent is an F. But an F represents the entire range below the grade of D, which is 0 to 59 percent (or often 0 to 64 percent).

A grade of 65 is a reasonable standard for passing a test. (The student has grasped about two-thirds of the material.) But with this proposal, 50 of those 65 points would be freebies when totaling test scores to determine an overall letter grade.



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