Minimum score in Pittsburgh

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08266/914029-298.stm

The article reports a Pittsburgh Public Schools district policy that sets 50% as the minimum score a student can receive for tests, assignments, and other work.

The theory behind the policy is that lower scores are too discouraging, because of the impact very low task scores have on aggregate grades; recovering from a “zero” may seem impossible to students, causing them to give up.

In my view, the problem the policy attempts to address is simply an artifact of the accumulative assessment technique that is taken for granted in so much of American education.  Granting 3 points for this homework and 5 points for that quiz is not a convincing way of demonstrating that learning is taking place.  In fact, it distracts students from learning by immersing them in an adventure-game mentality of running around collecting points.

When I read in a syllabus that “the course consists of 600 points”, I feel that something is drastically wrong with the focus of both teachers and learners.  The same is true when I read of 50% minimum grades.  

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