Monday, July 15, 2019

5.0 (And Higher) GPAs In High School - or College? Preposterous Nonsense!

Image result for brane space, John PhillipsImage may contain: 1 person, smiling
John Phillips, left, taught Advanced level Biology and Chemistry at Harrison College for twenty years. Andy Haynes, recently retired Chair of Physics Dept, taught Advanced Level Physics. Both acknowledged that any grades in the 4.0 plus range are total bollocks.

Kyle Kashuv, alleged to have had a 5.345 grade point average at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, in Parkland, FL.


When I recently discussed the explosion of  ultra high GPAs in U.S. high schools with former colleagues at Harrison College, most were in sheer disbelief.  They admitted there is no way in hell any student, no matter how bright he or she believes,  could score over 100%  in any of their Advanced level courses. And certainly not the equivalent percentage to a 5.345 overall  GPA, i.e. as gun supporter Kyle Kashuv reportedly did at Parkland,  Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

When I spoke with Andy Haynes, former HC Physics dept. chair 2 years ago,  he said the path to such outlandish "untethered from reality" GPAs and grades began soon after U..S. schools implemented AP classes and honors programs in earnest.  According to Haynes:  "They somehow believed because a student was enrolled in some honors course or was taking AP classes he was entitled to be marked at a much higher 'gear' than other students.  Of course, that's foolishness!"

Haynes pointed out the similarities between AP classes and Advanced level courses in Bim while also noting that most students in the latter don't even attain a highest mark of 80.  That's because: a) classes are marked on a much less expansive scale, i.e. NO student is expected to even come close to perfection irrespective of which course level, and b)  the level of course work was far too rigorous to be earning "super" marks, i.e. in excess of traditional academic norms - in this case exceeding a highest level of 100% or a 4.0 GPA.

Both Haynes and retired Biology lecturer John Phillips (20 years at HC)  agreed with me that a supra 4.0 GPA can only be obtained in an academic environment in which standard Gaussian grade distributions are ignored in favor of a confected alternative. This is  given that an exam deemed proper for a specific  level -  whether a 3rd year Harvard course in astrophysics- OR a 2nd year Harrison College Course in Advanced level Physics - should possess considerable discriminatory power.  So, even in a class of 30 Harvard  astrophysics over-achievers (or 25 HC Chemistry or Physics A-Level counterparts)  it ought to be possible to separate out the 10 percent or so who demonstrate peak excellence and really merit A's. This as opposed to having such an absurdly easy test that 40 percent or more get A's off it.   Nor should anyone achieve grades or marks (using "weighted"schemes) that "escape academic gravity".  That is,  in excess of the upper limit of a standard Gaussian grading curve, whether 4.0 or 100 %.

As I have argued in previous posts, the lack of discriminatory power in grading and the level of difficulty of coursework, assignments automatically lends itself to overly generous American high school marking schemes.  In the case of 4.0 -plus GPAs  it is a result of  systemic grade inflation by virtue of awarding honors (or AP students) a significantly much higher potential GPA (one student posting on Reddit claimed an 8.0 GPA) than their non-AP, non-Honors course pursuing peers.   This is done via so-called "weighting".

For example, under one high school's current weighting scheme (defined in its Student Handbook) , a standard unweighted 'A' tallies a GPA of 4.0 (93-96% range)  while  an "honors" weight translates to 5.33 and an AP weight to 6.33.   Averaging out the latter, and even with lower grades (an honors 'B' gets 4.33 and an AP B gets 5.33)   leads to the inflated GPA.  (This is a prime reason HC does not use grade point averages in performance evaluations, only percentages achieved.)

The reasoning is that if the courses are much more difficult at that level, then the upper limit of the marks or GPA needs to be weighted higher.  To which Messrs. Haynes and Phillips have offered: "Nonsense! You score at the same level with the same maximum. No extra margins. If a kid maxes out tests all the time then it's clear your tests, homework are too easy!"

Both then referred to the Advanced-level courses at HC which are equivalent to 1st, 2nd year university level and for which no weighted grades are allotted. Students earn what they earn and on a regular marking scheme.

At Harrison College,  for example, anything below 50 % was an F, no arguments. Grades from 50-60 rated a D mark, from 61-70 a C, and From 71-80 a B. Marks higher than 80 earned an A but virtually no student attained a 93 % the usual starting point for an A in the U.S. The reason is that exams at HC are genuinely difficult - so much so that even the 'cream of the crop' will seldom if ever score 100%

Some examples of  A-level physics (P) and Biology (B)problems from past HC exam papers:

1) (P) Certain meteorites (tektites) found on Earth have a composition identical with that of lunar granite. It is thought that they may be the debris from a volcanic eruption on the Moon. The graphic shown (which is not to scale) shows how the gravitational potential between the surface of the Moon and the surface of the Earth varies along the line of centers.:



At the point P the gravitational potential is a maximum.

(a)By considering the separate contributions of the Earth and the Moon to the gravitational potential, explain qualitatively why the graph has a maximum and why the curve is asymmetrical.

(b) State how the resultant gravitational force on the tektite at any point between the Moon and the Earth can be deduced from the diagram.

(c) When a tektite is at P the gravitational force on it due to the Moon and Earth are FM and FE, respectively. Hence, find the value of x/y, where x and y are the distances of P from the center of the Moon and the center of the Earth.

(d) If a tektite is to reach the Earth, it must be projected from the volcano on the Moon with a certain minimum speed, vo.  Making use of appropriate values from the diagram, find this minimum speed. Explain your reasoning.

(e) Discuss very briefly whether a tektite will reach the Earth’s surface with a speed less than, equal to or greater than the speed of projection. (Neglect atmospheric resistance).


Data: Mass of Moon  = 7.4 x 1022 kg,

Mass of Earth = 6.0 x 1024 kg.


2) (P) Compare the maximum velocities of a simple pendulum bob of mass m (= 0.1 kg) if an experiment in evaluating energy change is conducted on both Mars and Earth at the same time, for the same deflection angle Θ and length, L = 1.0 m. (Take the acceleration of gravity on Earth as 9.8 N/kg,and on Mars as 3.7 N/kg) Compare also the potential energy in each case. Why or why not would these be different? (Take the deflection angle Θ = 15 degrees in each experiment.)


3) (B) a) The mutation rate for human albinism is u = 0.00001. (e.g. 1 in every 100,000). If the equilibrium frequency q = 0.01, what is the reduction in fitness?

b)Blatella Germanica, the German cockroach,  has the following identified alleles:
D- resistance to the pesticide dieldrin
d- non-resistance

After some defined time, the population exhibits the following three genotypes: DD, Dd and dd

If over time, each dd and Dd roach produces one offspring, and each DD produces TWO, then find:

a) the relative fitness for the DD roaches
b) the relative fitness for the Dd roaches
c) the relative fitness for the dd roaches


4) (B)Over successive generations of German roaches it can be shown that the gene frequency of the deleterious allele will be decreased by:

-Dq = - spq / (1 – sq)2

where p is the gene frequency for the favored allele ( = 0.60)

If it reproduces at a ratio of 3:2 relative to the disadvantaged allele., use this information to find:

i) The gene frequency (q) of the disadvantaged allele for the roach, and thence, the magnitude of -Dq.

ii) The values of p and q when:     -Dq = -0.07

State any assumptions made.
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While we can certainly agree the Barbadian and U.S. systems are different in key ways, it is clear the latter - from many points of view - is simply too generous, and gives exalted or exaggerated grades and marks for students. I warrant if they were suddenly put into the Bajan system their marks, GPAs would crash back to Earth in two heart beats. 

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