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The Foothill Dragon Press

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The education system is incentivizing mediocrity

Credit: Jenny Chang / The Foothill Dragon Press

The current system of grading, A through F, is a failing metric. This method measures a number of different things ranging from work ethic, dedication, willingness to make sacrifice and even tolerance for pain. Yet there is a key attribute missing from this list… aptitude. Wait!?! How can this be? The system of public education put in place to measure aptitude does nearly everything except measure aptitude?

The answer is yes, and the problem with this system is deep rooted and long standing.

Let’s take a look into the ordinary high school classroom. The majority of classes are subject to what is known as grade inflation. The curriculum is taught, homework is assigned and tests are taken. A seemingly normal situation. But, the problem occurs where the emphasis and weight among these categories is placed.

The problem begins when homework is given undue weight, within the overall grade, compared to tests. In many classes, it is possible to get a B or even an A when performing sub-standard on tests. The reason for this being grade inflation by homework. Conversely, it is possible to receive a C or even fail a class while performing proficient on test, or even excellent, yet choosing not to do the homework. You may be asking, well how do you know? I am unfortunately a student who has done both.

What could possibly be the reason for this? This is of course the next question in a logical train of thought. The answer is simple and unfortunate.

It doesn’t pay to have failing students, and it definitely doesn’t look good. Public schools, who rely overwhelmingly on the federal government for funding, are more likely to receive less money if test scores and pass rates are low. So the incentive is obvious.

Teachers, in turn, lower the standards of the classroom in order for students to “succeed.” And students do succeed by these standards. Yet proficiency is lost in the process. True success is lost in the process.

The problem also lies within a ridiculous mentality that I have often encountered. The mentality that putting in the requisite amount of work is equivalent to or of greater value than natural talent. The sometimes unhappy truth is that there will always be individuals who are better than you, and often times they put in significantly less effort to do so. People, understandably, do not like this; this mentality devalues success and excellence, and instead incentivizes mediocrity.

The solution to this problem would have to be on the national scale. Without even considering solutions regarding funding, the most logical solution would be to switch to a national proficiency based standard. Rather than basing education on subjective, moveable standards, they must be based on set and uniform benchmarks.

Education is one of the most important institutions in our country, yet it is not treated as such. Something must be done about the current state of education. Success must be prioritized over mediocrity.

What do you think?
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    Name withheld for obvious reasonsJun 7, 2017 at 5:57 am

    It doesn’t help that FTHS admin overtly bully teachers whose grades include “too many” Ds and Fs. For awhile, every teacher received a breakdown of what percentage of students got As, Bs, etc–in order to “make us aware”, or in other words to coerce us. There were even meetings intended to shame certain teachers into relaxing their standards. The district is also complicit since they stress allowing students to turn in late work.

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The education system is incentivizing mediocrity