History of Grading Systems

Grading Systems that placed students in one of six “divisions” using a grading scale of 100-Division I was students earning 90 to 100 on the evaluation scale. These systems might not have averaged student performance to create comparative ranks, what we call grading on a curve.

It was in 1897 at Mount Holyoke College that letter grades tied to a numerical or percentage scale were first used. The college awarded students in percentages 95 to 100 an A, 85 to 94 a B, 76 to 84 a C, 75 a D–the lowest passing grade–and anything below 75 an E, which indicated a failing grade. Our modern F grade was not used, but this system was Alternative Grading System: Using a Pass/Fail Final

An alternative grading system using a pass/fail final holds benefits for students and teachers. What’s a Pass/Fail Final? An alternative grading system that has caught on in many school districs is the administration of pass/fail final exams. In fact, proficiency exams, administered in most states, uses a pass/fail alternative grading system to determine whether or not a student graduates. A Pass/fail final is just as it sounds. It is an assessment in which students either pass or fail, and they are awarded either a P for a passing score or a F for a failing score.

The Benefits for Students With final averages on the line, students come into exams with a lot of frustration and test anxiety. Many students know that they have to do well to improve their averages or just to maintain their averages. Using this type of assessment, students feel less frustration and know that their exam has little, if any, bearing on their grade as long as their work is satisfactory.



Students typically have to demonstrate knowledge of the skills that were taught during the semester, so it is a fairly comprehensive assessment. As students have studied the concepts over the course of nine or eighteen weeks, they have confidence in their abilities, and since grades are not really a factor, they bring a level of confidence into the testing situation. The exam is pretty laid back as students have little to worry about and do not have to stress out over a 100 question true/false test, etc. Example

Besides easing the anxiety that students feel, teachers find that they have more time on their hands as grading this type of assessment goes fairly quickly. Teachers tend to set up a rubric and grade according to that rubric. Students are given the assignment to write an expository essay in which they must explain how to peel an orange.

As long as students make an attempt, tell how to peel an orange, and use correct punctuation, there is no reason why the student should not do well. My rubric states that if students make more than three major punctuation errors, then they receive a failing grade. I give students the highest possible failing grade, which is a 64/F. Pros & Cons of a Pass/Fail Grading System Competition to get into college and graduate schools has never been tougher. High school students know that grades can keep them out of a good college.

College students need top grades to get into medical school or law school. Should all that attention be focused on grade point average, or should grades be pass or fail? Pros According to Virtual Mentor, a publication of the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, a pass/fail grading system has several advantages. First, students don’t have to worry about their grades, because most students will pass. Students can concentrate on learning. Next, eliminating letter grades eliminates competition among students for grades.

Finally, for graduate students, letter grades may be more of a reflection of the quality of a student’s undergraduate or high school education than a reflection of the student’s effort, ability and potential. Some schools are better than others at preparing students to succeed on the next level. Cons On the other hand, a pass/fail grading system also has its disadvantages. Students who exert extraordinary effort and achieve extraordinary results get the same grade as someone who barely scraped by, so what will motivate those students to do their best? Another concern with the pass/fail system is that it may not serve students who are struggling at the low end of the pass range. In a traditional grading system, those students may be identified and offered help.