Watch out jack, Randy's back

UPDATE: Look, this piece makes some claims that I can't imagine everyone reading it agrees with. When I look down and see zero comments I don't know if people read this and thought, "Wow, that's so persuasive," or "Wow, this piece is really bad and I'm going to stop reading it." I would appreciate any feedback as to either of those or other responses.

And he flubbed a really easy one. The letter writer says, essentially, "My 9th grade art teacher, as a matter of policy, never gives anyone over a 94%. Is this ethical?" Cohen says it's not unethical, though possibly unwise, because teachers should have wide discretion in their choice of grading metric. He asserts that any metric which is applied based on the merits of the students in the class is fine, since it's fair to all the students in the class. But this is crazy, since the practice is
really unfair to those students as compared to students who either a) don't take that class or b) aren't in that school.

While the college admissions system is certainly not optimal and how it should be structured is very much open to debate, I don't see how a reasonable person can deny that the primary importance of high school grades to the student is for the purposes of getting into college. While this is probably a bad thing (students should value education and accomplishment the educational system for their own sakes, right?) it is the truth. Also, while I think it's pretty stupid that someone's fate in the college admissions game might turn on the difference between an A and an A-; I can't say that it certainly doesn't happen. So, if you assume that getting into a more selective school is good, this teacher is harming their students. Even if you assume that getting into a more selective school would be bad for these students, and that it turns out the teacher is helping them by lowering their chances of getting in, isn't that a choice for the student to make?

I don't see any virtues of not giving grades over a 94% that balance this out. The teachers stated rationale (stated by the student, I should say) of "There's always room for improvement," could be equally well served by never giving 100%, but still giving imperfect A's. At least in my high school, any A became a 4.0 for GPA purposes, so both fairness and noting the possibility of improvement could be achieved. And while I was told back when I was applying to undergrad that the colleges adjust your grades based on the difficulty of the classes you took and the grading practices of your high school as a whole, I'd be quite shocked to discover that they adjust for individual teachers choosing not to give grades over an arbitrary threshold.