F... is for a fairer grading system?

by Vivian Diep in March 11th, 2022
children studying

F... is for a fairer grading system?

Mon Feb 28

Remember arguing over a single point missed on an assignment, but barely remember what the assignment was about now? With a single point differentiating letter grades, sometimes the grading becomes more studied than the coursework leading many to question this stressful A-F grading system altogether, especially because:

  • Letter grades often reflect behavior (versus true learning). For instance, a student submitting A-level work after the deadline would automatically result in a B grade. This means grades are, at best, inaccurate measures of academic aptitude.
  • Letter grades can be demotivating to learning. For example, receiving an F letter grade early on in the school year can weigh down a student’s overall average to the point of no recovery.
  • And the above worsens when factoring in racial, ethnic, or economic divides. The letter grade system fails to represent students with demanding circumstances outside of school, such as caring for family members or working jobs to make ends meet.

So what would an alternative structure look like? Experiments are underway across the country. Some teachers have simply stopped giving D’s or F’s in light of heightened learning difficulties during the pandemic. A few teachers at one California high school adjusted their system to a 50-point scale (10 points for each letter grade), decreasing the crush of a failing grade which currently is a 60-point span rather than just 10. These teachers also allow students who have taken the time to scrutinize their mistakes to retake exams or redo assignments in an effort to ensure final grades measure learning.

Naturally, not everyone is in support. Some teachers and parents are worried a move away from letter grades will make it easier for slackers to slack off. Given some teachers are assigning letter grades to fewer assignments in an effort to encourage more learning, others worry this increases the pressure to perform on those limited graded pieces. Further, teachers are already overburdened, and the extra work of new and more effortful grading systems seems impossible.

EPA’s buggy policies around pesticides

Mon Feb 28

Turning a blind-eye to the threat of pesticides has been a trend through numerous presidential administrations. Under Trump, a number of environmental policies that experts proved killed bees, harmed children, and jeopardized 1,284 endangered species were approved, and Biden’s administration has defended it all despite initial promises otherwise. In fact, these policies and actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are a consistent disregard for requirements set by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since the 1970s.

But hope has emerged from a recent EPA announcement saying they will now abide by that responsibility — mostly because it will cost the EPA less. For decades, the EPA has dealt with draining lawsuits against pesticides they’ve approved without fulfilling the ESA requirement to measure their impact. Examples include…

  • Glyphosate: One lawsuit forced the EPA to conduct research, ultimately finding that glyphosate, the most used pesticide in the U.S., is likely to harm 93% of endangered species. No action has yet been taken to protect species or limit use.
  • Atrazine: Another lawsuit revealed that this second most sprayed herbicide in the U.S. is likely to harm more than 900 endangered species — that’s 50% of the whole list. Action has since been taken just in Hawaii, home to 500 endangered species.

The change will help provide protections to over one million species facing extinction globally, and allows the EPA to shift resources from addressing one-off court cases to long-term solutions to the problems of pesticides. Still, some environmentalists believe this is not enough and say other agencies need to be brought in for consultation before new pesticides are approved — such as the Fish and Wildlife Service, given pesticides can pollute and harm salmon streams.

Below the Fold Bytes

Exhausting Car Sound?

Honk if you’re in France! Well, only until 2023. “Sound radars” are set to be installed in seven cities across the country to police the streets and write fines of $150 to owners of vehicles detected to be producing “extra-loud commotion.” This is all in the name of public health as excessive noise is shown to reduce life expectancy by nine months. France isn’t the first to use such methods to quiet its cities, too. Honking has already been banned in downtown Shanghai, with car owners reportedly paying $100 in fines. >> Read More

Law vs Society: LGBTQ+ Treatment

There’s work to be done in ending the harassment of the queer community in India, but progress is being made with a new rule from a high court judge: India’s police have officially been told to stop harassing LGBTQ+ Indians in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This region of India has been among the most progressive on this front, starting as early as 1994 when it gave voting rights to trans Indians. Many are still waiting for the rule to trickle down to the streets, however, especially with worries over enforcement. >> Read More

🎬 Action of the Week 

Nearly 40 environmental and health groups — from farm organizations to beekeeper councils – delivered a letter to EPA seeking major reform in the Office of Pesticide Program. Read the letter and support by signing their petition here.

This Week's Sources

  • Washington Post: Rethinking letter grades 18 days old | 15 minutes long
  • LA Times: Inequitable grade systems 4 months old | 17 minutes long
  • The Counter: EPA’s new policy 9 days old | 15 minutes long
  • Below the Fold: Lacking pesticide regulation 8 months old | 3 minutes long

ASCII-ing About the News

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How are you doing in geology?

Below C-level.

Art Credit: Below the Fold

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