Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Do some teachers harm kids by giving unfair grades?

Study critiques schools over subjective grading

An education expert calls for greater consistency in evaluating students' work.
Washington Post
October 4, 2009

If you have ever rolled your eyes when your child says a teacher's grade was unfair, you might want to think again. Your child might be right.

Douglas Reeves, an expert on grading systems, conducted an experiment with more than 10,000 educators that he says proves just how subjective grades can be.

Reeves asked teachers and administrators in the United States, Australia, Canada and South America to determine a final semester grade for a student who received the following grades for assignments, in this order:

C, C, MA (Missing Assignment), D, C, B, MA, MA, B, A.

The educators gave the student final semester grades from A to F, Reeves said.

Why? Because, he said, teachers use different criteria for grading.

Some average letter grades. Others consider effort (which in this case seemed to be picking up toward the end) and attendance.

"If you went to a Redskins game -- the thing society takes really, really seriously -- and one official says a goal was scored and another official says no goal and a third official scratches his head, there would be hell to pay," said Reeves, founder of the Leadership and Learning Center, a Colorado company that provides professional development services, research and solutions to educators and others.

"But for some reason, we let grades be all over the map."

The consequences, say Reeves and other experts on grading systems, are more than just a few unhappy students. Reeves said ineffective grading can lead to widespread student failure.

Grading regimes that work, he said, offer accurate, precise and timely feedback that is aimed at helping students improve -- not penalizing them -- and is only one type of response.

"You don't give grades to adjudicate a result. You give it to kids . . . to help them get better," he said...

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