Grading System Grief

No high school in the world has better teachers than Phillips. Ours are the best qualified, best informed, and most insightful. However, there seems to be a shocking lack of consistency among teachers, leaving students to feel both cheated and robbed. I have always felt that teachers at this school do not grade evenly. Although they are usually fair, there is no consensus on what each grade really means. In one class, a four is average, while in another a five is. In some classes, a handful of students will attain sixes, while in other classes not a single student will have a six. Often, two teachers, teaching the same course, give out a completely different variety of grades. This can be extremely frustrating, especially if you have the hard teacher. Consequentially, students drop out of classes for the sake of their grade-point-average. But this is more than just the relative perception of one upper. In order to further investigate, I took a poll of a handful of students. I was not surprised at what I found. Of 25 students asked, not a single student thought that most teachers graded the same way. Furthermore, 20 of 23 students asked reported having felt cheated because their friend had an easier teacher. When I asked students if they had ever switched out of a class to avoid a hard teacher, 9 of 27 said they had. Although this was hardly a scientific poll, all classes were represented, even students who have only been here for a few weeks. I implore you not to discard these statistics as the mere whining of a few teenagers. Students at Andover take their grades seriously; we should have no misgivings about getting the grades we deserve. Teachers often like to say “I don’t determine the grade, the student does.” But more and more, it is the teachers who are determining the grades. At the very least, it seems like some teachers just have different perceptions of the Andover grading scale. And while this may be understandable, students pay the price. Certainly, the 6 point grading scale is hard to manage. I have been here for three years, and I still don’t understand it. What is average? Is a 6 an “A,” or is a 5 an “A?” How does my 4.5 GPA translate in the real world? Different teachers seem to have different answers to these questions. If the perception of the student body is a measure of anything, then we must conclude that teachers are just as baffled as we are. But more than anything, this is a problem that must be fixed. Students should not have to pick and choose their teachers. If they do, it should only be on the basis of personality. But more and more students are learning to avoid hard teachers and seek out the easy ones. This leaves students whose schedules are less flexible at a great disadvantage. They cannot simply up and leave when they find out their teacher doesn’t “believe” in giving out sixes. Idealists among the student body operate under the assumption that teacher’s grade evenly, but they too are at a disadvantage. The first thing colleges look for on a student’s transcript is a strong grade-point-average. Especially for uppers and seniors, the battle for good grades becomes increasingly difficult. Ever resourceful, Andover students have added a new tactic to their “strategy for success:” pick the right teachers. There is no doubt; a 6.0 GPA requires more than just extremely hard work and impeccable talent. It requires a little planning ahead, if not a little luck. I would like to conclude by reporting the last question of my poll. When I asked students if they thought most teachers at PA were fair, 21 of 28 said yes. Do not misinterpret what I have said. I have not an ounce of doubt that our faculty is simply the best, the tough and easy graders alike. Unfortunately, there is a discrepancy in grading among the faculty that leaves some students at a great loss.