At 06:26 AM 1/6/98 -1000, Ed wrote:
>Here's the question:  Where did the practice of assigning the letters A, B,
>C, D, and F as grades come from?  Why don't we use the E?

So happens about 10 years ago I did a little study on this, as i wondered
more or less the same question . . .

Among other things, I discovered that Yale, in 1783, was the first American
college to give grades... shortly after the turn of the century, they
adopted the standard 4-point system commonly in use today.  By the way,
grades then were based solely on oral exams.

William & mary took it a step further and tried to establish criteria . ..
Top grades went to those who were deemed "orderly and attentive and had
"the most flattering improvement."
Next level were "orderly, correct, and attentive," made "respectable"
Next level made little improvement "as we apprehend from lack of Diligence."
The lowest level learned "little or nothing and we believe on a ccount of
escapaid [sic] and Idleness."

By 1830, there was widespread complainign among faculty that grading
encouraged cramming and caused a loss of teaching time.

In 1850, u Mich instituted a Pass/Fail system.

Harvard had the first recorded "B" grade in 1883.

I thought it significant that studies since 1966 have continued to suppor
that grade distibution seems to follow a normal curve even when (unknown to
instructors) a class was comprised entirely of "A" students.  In other
words, any given letter grade can tend to be quite subjective.    Only 3 of
46 studies reviewed in 1971 showed a significant relationship between GPA
and performance; half the studies showed no correlation whatsoever.

Another study in 1977 showed that a decimal system (3.1, 3.2, etc.) showed
no improvement in precision.

Nevertheless, of 262 companies surveyed in 1983, 68% considered GPA
"important" or "very important' in hiring decisions.

Jossey-Bass published a number of wonderful sources regarding grading
criteria.  One of my favorites is Ohmer Milton et al. (1986), _Making Sense
of College Grades_ (subtitled "Why the grading system does not work and
what can be done about it").

                                Neal Steiger
                      NH Community Technical College
                        379 New Prescott Hill Road
                            Laconia NH  03276
                phone:  603-524-3207   fax: 603-524-8084
          "Even a planarian worm can learn."  --Eunice Cornish