On grade inflation

Andrew at SM, CI and SS:

The fact that profs don’t give all A’s, even though they can, is interesting to me.

I also like the proposed solution:

At the institutional level, these problems with grades would be fixed using standardized tests or with some sort of statistical correction such as proposed by statistician Val Johnson, who writes:

There are two approaches that might be taken in reforming our grading system. The first is to encourage faculty to modify their grading practices and adhere to a “common” grading standard. The second is to make post-hoc adjustments to assigned grades to account for differences in faculty grading policies.

The beauty of Val’s approach is that it does three things:

1. By statically correcting for grading practices, Val’s method produces adjusted grades that are more informative measures of student ability.

2. Since students know their grades will be adjusted, they can choose and evaluate their classes based on what they expect to learn and how they expect to perform; they don’t have to worry about the extraneous factor of how easy the grading is.

3. Since instructors know the grades will be adjusted, they can assign grades for accuracy and not have to worry about the average grade. (They can still give all A’s but this will no longer be a benefit to the individual students after the course is over.)

For any instructor, the only objective in giving quizes and examinations should be to allow students to assess their progress; however, the fact that the marks/grades that the instructor gives will be used outside of the classroom environment for other purposes (such as short-listing of candidates for jobs/admissions) can (and in most of the cases do) affect the grading process. Standardised tests and/or standardising grading are thus the moves in the right direction, if you ask me.

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