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Comparing Grades

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When parents in Simsbury, Connecticut, became concerned that their high school’s demanding grading system was jeopardizing students’ chances for admissions into elite colleges, a local nuclear engineer decided to do something about it. Robert M. Hartranft, a self-proclaimed workaholic who was forced into early retirement because of Parkinson’s disease, developed an extensive mathematical model to compare school grading systems across the nation by tracking grade-point averages against SAT scores. The model can thus purportedly show, for example, that a B at Simsbury High School is equivalent to an A at many other schools. Simsbury High now includes the comparison, called the “g.p.a. plot,” in students’ college application materials, and school officials believe it may have helped raised Simsbury students' admission rates in recent years. The reaction of college admissions officers is mixed, however. While at least one praises Hartranft’s method for providing context for student grades, others question its reliance on SAT scores. “I used to be a teacher,” says Robert S. Clagett, dean of admissions at Middlebury College, “and I would hate to have somebody take my standards and arbitrarily correlate it to the SAT. It’s attempting to make a science out of what is very much an art.” Even so, Hartranft—a man who prefers hard data to intuition—argues he’s developed the most effective grade-comparison method available. “I’m giving you a G.P.S. navigation system, as opposed to scraps of maps,” he says.

2 Comments

Oh goody, another bunch of statistics. I see education turning into the new baseball. Soon we'll be collecting schoolcards with the vital statistics on the back of each glossy picture--the MS-SS Average (math scores to shoe size), KBO scores (kids booted out), NCLB/ACLB ratios (no child left behind to actual children left behind), FS-SATS Correlation (Football Scores to SAT scores) and a host of other minutia that doesn't really tell us much of anything but can add thousands of dollars to the price of our house when we sell it.

Go to it Mr. Hartranft. As we know, overprivileged students in high-competition suburban schools need every advantage they can get to make sure they have the choice spots in the educational hierarchy. What would they do without people like you making sure they get those advantages?

I wonder if Robert M. Hartranft has included within his gpa-plot a means of assessing emotional maturity and the responsibility level of the student. Some of the lower grades at high school may be because the student fails to turn in his or her work. Just because the student shows high results on an SAT does not necessarily make this student the best candidate for college. I believe his grades in class reveal more about the student than a test. If the student lacks responsibility, the student will fail miserably in college.

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