The Problem With Grades Based on Averages

Our district is working towards customized learning, which includes changes in school structures to allow students flexibility of pace and approach to learning, demonstrating proficiency in a progression of learning targets, within an environment that keeps kids interested in coming back to learn each day.

During a conversation at our School Committee meeting this evening, about why high school students had gaps in their learning, our high school principal suggested it was because of our inefficient system of basing grades on averages. He provided an analogy for why schools should move away from averaged grades and toward a proficiency based system. (Which, in my opinion, was one of the best explanations I've heard of why we need to change that.)

His example:

Imagine taking your car to be inspected. It comes out from the inspection with a new sticker, and the mechanic tells you, “Your lights work great, and your blinkers work great, and your tires are in good shape. But your breaks don't work. But when we averaged the performance of each component, you passed.”