Althouse talks about a new law in Madison schools:
Under the new system, students will continue to receive a traditional letter grade — A, B, C, D or U (unsatisfactory) — for every subject....
A second section of the report card, known as Academic Performance, will show how students perform compared to the state's academic standards on a scale of 4 (advanced), 3 (proficient), 2 (basic) and 1 (minimal) — the same ratings students receive on annual state tests.
Grades began in schools as a way of keeping students focused and keeping tally of how the students are doing in comparison to one another. Now, though, grades dominate the entire train of thought. In high school, at least from my experience, students feel (and the thought is endorsed almost universally by parents) motivation is solely based on the intent to go to college. As a result, students work their tails off to keep solid grades, but the actual material they were meant to learn is lost in the process.
While missing out on some high school material probably won't have a major effect on the outcome of my life, and it's most likely safe to assume I won't actually need the subjunctive superlative preterite form of the verb "huir" at any point in my life, I get the feeling that learning, especially at the college level is certainly not meant to be such a grade-based adventure. Sure, grades will remain important. I mean, you can't tell an interviewer for a job at... Bear Stearns (heh, in response to a question about your 1.7 GPA, that you thought learning wasn't supposed to be about the grades. But in college, if you walk in to class solely with the motive of coming out with an A, I think it a valid argument that you may not walk out that door with much practical knowledge.
This second grade system in Madison seems to attempt to spackle over the problem by giving out a second grade for "understanding." Maybe it will work from fall through... eh, January. After that, though, I don't think this will be much more than a subjective effort grade. I mean, what Mrs. Smith is going to fail hardworking Johnny in english via crazy new grade if he earned an A? Not many. The new grades will really find themselves correlating with the letter grade. The C kids will become C-3 kids, and the A kids will simply become A-1 students. It's just another way to make the lower level kids look dumb: "not only does Billy have a D, but he also doesn't understand it."
I guess, "no shit sherlock" sums up the thought process.