[FoRK] Re: Re: [3%] 20-year grade inflation stat

Corinna corinna.schultz at gmail.com
Wed Jan 18 06:00:30 PST 2006

"Zee Roe" <zero at rawbw.com> wrote in message
> That said, I'm not sure you can just fail everyone either.

Sadly, that's what my principal said, when I was a teacher...  They didn't 
like to see failure rates of over 30%.

In my situation, I has a class of (supposedly) AP Computer Science students 
who didn't do the reading, didn't try the homework, and were constantly 
sneaking on the internet when they should have been working on a problem. 
Needless to say, they had a hard time passing quizzes, etc. At least half of 
them didn't have the aptitude or interest to even be in the class in the 
first place (the counselors didn't know that the class was hard, or the 
students didn't have any other class they could have taken for that 
timeslot). Heck, I even had a student who had trouble with reading 
comprehension, though he was a good problem solver. How do you learn 
programming without being able to read well, unless you have a tutor (which 
a teacher *cannot* be)??

Yet the principal said, in effect, don't lower your standards, don't fail 
more than 30% of them. It's an impossible situation. Every teacher I asked 
about grades said that there's no objective standard for issuing grades.

It seems to me that an A should mean that you've mastered all of the 
objectives of the course. A B should mean that you have a pretty good clue. 
A C means that you have only basic understanding. A D means you're not 
totally clueless. An F means that you are really and truly clueless.  In 
this scheme, an A or B means that you could continue on to the next level 
with a fair chance at success. C or below would mean that you would probably 
not do well, and you should probably remediate your weaknessess, or go into 
another line of work. :)

This level of understanding should be measured by some combination of 
interview, essay, free response to multiple-solutioned problems, and short 
answer to vocabulary-type questions. No multiple choice. No matching. No 
questions that can be answered correctly through guessing blindly.

As a teacher, if I had done this, only a handful of students would pass, 
even in the basic MS Office class.

As a homeschooler, I can treat my kids this way, and I can *know* whether, 
say, my son understands how to do arithmetic with negative numbers, and keep 
plugging away at it until he does. Grades are meaningless for a 
homeschooler -- all that matters is whether he's progressing.

This is one of the central ethical conflicts which I couldn't resolve as a 
teacher. It caused an already-stressful occupation to be even more stressful 
for me, and I'm glad I'm not there anymore.

* Had I remained a teacher, I would have taken steps to control my computers 
more completely - installed a proxy server for the internet, set up scripts 
to restrict access to certain parts of the OS, learned more about how the 
network was configured so I could restrict logins, etc. The way things were 
set up, teachers had no control over the internet access of the student 
computers -- they had to be on the network to access their home directories, 
so you couldn't just unplug the cables at the switch...


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