Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Quest to Explain What Grades Really Mean

It could be a Zen koan: if everybody in the class gets an A, what does an A mean?

The answer: Not what it should, says Andrew Perrin, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “An A should mean outstanding work; it should not be the default grade,” Mr. Perrin said. “If everyone gets an A for adequate completion of tasks, it cripples our ability to recognize exemplary scholarship.”

As part of the university’s long effort to clarify what grades really mean, Mr. Perrin now leads a committee that is working with the registrar on plans to add extra information — probably median grades, and perhaps more — to transcripts. In addition, they expect to post further statistics providing context online and give instructors data on how their grading compares with their colleagues’.

“It’s going to be modest and nowhere near enough to correct the problems,” Mr. Perrin said. “But it’s our judgment that it’s the best we can do now.”

The article cites
RateMyProfessors, a resource so overrated and prone to abuse it's beyond ridiculous.

And no more than 35 percent A grades at Princeton? I'd be pleased to give 3 percent in most of my American Government classes. Grade inflation is the least of my worries, although I'm not scratching to maintain a teaching gig nor to maintain the enrollment at the college. Students complain, sure, but the sense of entitlement at college is proportionate to the prestige of the institution. Some of the most whiny students I encounter are those who've attended university or who'd been pampered in affluence. Disadvantaged students not only haven't been marinated in entitlement, they haven't been provided an education decent enough to give them voice in the first place. And that's not entirely the fault of the schools. Parents and the popular culture should come in for the bulk of the blame. Basic skills are non-existent for many of my students. They can't compose a decent sentence, much less a paragraph. I don't seem to stress it as much as I used to, in any case, since I've adapted my teaching to accommodate students, for their disinterest and for the academic deficiencies. I'd like to see
more students reading books, on their own, and of their own interest.

I should write more on this ... perhaps later?


Bob said...

> nor to maintain the enrollment at the college

I had thought that community college faculty in particular were often pressured not to flunk people because it was harmful to enrollment (=cash). Has that not been your experience?

AmPowerBlog said...

Well, it's completion more than enrollment. I'm sure some faculty face pressure to herd the students through, but not so much in my experience.

huemaurice7 said...

'A' is nothing. A = 0. A letter has no value, even if it is the first alphabet. 'A' as adolph?
Only the digits may represent a value. 1. 1 on 10, it is unlikely. 5 on 10 is better. 10/10: perfect. This is something that means something.