Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Grading in school

This piece, by Jay Mathews, the WaPo’s education columnist, examines the history and current status of the letter grade. The most chilling quote comes at the end:

"Ask any number of parents and students what they are hoping to get out of a given class and they will tell you, ’A good grade,’ " [high school teacher Jason] Busby said. "Ask them, as I do every year of my students, if they would accept an A at the cost of learning nothing about the subject in class. . . . The answer is 99 percent yes."

Discussions - 4 Comments

I pay too much for school to not get a good grade. I didn’t go to college to learn. I went to get a degree, and hence a job. To get that job, I need high grades.

Learning is something I can do on my own time. An on sale course (wait, it’ll go on sale) from The Teaching Company or a book form Amazon or Powell’s, provides me with a much better and richer learning experience than any course in my 11 years in higher education (3 degrees) did.

We are so sold on the idea that if you don’t get a college degree you’ll end up poor and destitute that colleges can raise their fees every year. Normal people can’t afford tuition. Kids graduate with debt equal to my mortgage. And, for what? An English degree? I know most companies won’t look at your resume for many jobs unless you have a degree, but then they hire you for a job that college never prepared you for. At least in the technical fields, college teaches you a foundation, upon which the job can build. But, many of these Liberal Arts degrees never prepare you for a job. As interesting as reading and analyzing Henry James may be, what job requires that? It may make you a better person, but then it is merely a luxury degree, not a useful degree. The question then becomes do you need to pay $100,000 over 4 years to read Henry James, or just $7 a novel at Borders.

I should also point out that learning rarely has anything to do with grades. In subjective essay courses, the way to get good grades was to parrot back the teacher’s own biases and fixations. In one class every essay I wrote was how women are repressed by men/society. In another class every essay revolved around death. I didn’t learn literature; I learned how to play the game. In objective courses, I learned more, but the ability to get back tests and “think like the test writer” was also very useful.

But I have wandered fro my original point … I believe grade inflation occurs because as tuition costs rise, people demand a higher return on their investment. It is believed with higher grades comes a better job, and a job is really why people are in college. The Vocational Technology kids in high school aren’t going to college and don’t complain about grades nearly as much.

Wow, wished I could have previewed that post. All my paragraph breaks disappeared, turning it into one big blob.

Philistinism, thy name is Dave.

As a teacher I have pondered the worth of grades, but until a viable alternative comes along I will stick with grades. Portfollio’s-nice and pretty, but again what are the standards? Job evaluations? Please...I have seen those and they are as subjective.
A well rounded evaluation would be nice, letter grade, written comments on strengths/weaknesses, examples of good and poor work, subjective as well as objective evaluations. A total package, not just one size.

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