Perfectly precise percentages

Emmerson McLean, Managing Editor

Within the next couple of years, LT intends to transition to a letter-based grading system, which will replace the current, more logical grading practice based on percentages. A letter-based grading system means that students will only be given a letter grade A-F on each summative assessment. 

Many students, like me, appreciate the clarity percentages provide, as it allows us to physically see why every grade is the way it is. You earn a certain amount of points out of a total, and that is your final grade. However, with my previous experience with  letter-based grading, I question how accurate it can be, since this practice is largely based on what grade the teacher believes the student deserves.
For example, during my junior year, my science class used letter-based grading grading. In theory, this would be great. I wouldn’t have to get high As on all assignments to maintain my grade; an A would just be an A, with no pluses, minuses, or percentages. 

As time went on, however, this grading only made my life more stressful. With this specific teacher, if you had just one C in the grade book on one assignment, your grade would automatically drop to a B. I had all As on every single assignment, and I received a C on one of the last assignments of the year. This made me very nervous about my final grade, knowing that I would have to perform well on the retake in order to get my grade up. 

How is it fair that just because I didn’t do as well on a single assignment while I got As on every other one, my grade dropped to a B? If this class was percentage-based, I would not have been worried about this one C, because the points of the assignments I did well on would counteract this. So, I wonder how this grading system could be uniform for all classes if all teachers have different standards. 

Additionally, without percentages, how are teachers supposed to decide what grade on a test constitutes an A, B, C, D, or F? This will obviously be largely based on their personal opinion, which I don’t believe is a fair grading practice to any student. In the classes I have taken with letter-based grading, I could get two points off on a test in one class and get a B; in another class, I could get five points off and still get an A. This discrepancy between classes only made it that much more confusing to understand where these grades are coming from. 

The solution to this is simple: keep percentages. They make sense. If you get three points off on a 10 point test, then that is your grade, and no one will argue with it. But with a  letter based grading system, students like me will always be wondering why they got the grade they did if they only got two points off on the whole test. 

A letter-based grading system may also confuse the student and cause them to believe they understand the material more than they do. A student who received an 89 on a test compared to a student who received an 80 will supposedly end up with the same grade: a B. However, these two students understood this material completely differently. Yet, they won’t be able to see this represented in their grades and understand which material they may need to spend extra time studying. 

All in all, percentages have, and always will be, easy to understand. Percentages are universal and students have been using this system for as long as they can remember. So why are we changing something that works? Given all that students have gone through within the past two years of the pandemic, I think I speak for all of us in saying we don’t need more change.