Saturday, August 17, 2013

Where everyone is way, way, way above average

Related to the growing practice of restricting challenging K12 academics to just a tiny percentage of students is the growing practice of restricting top grades to just a tiny percentage of those who’ve gone beyond the standard.

Ironically, those who perpetrate this practice come (most recently) from institutions in which the opposite practice prevails. I’m speaking, of course, of our graduate schools of education, and their rampant and ever rising grade inflation.

I hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten until an administrator from our local ed school told me that she routinely fields complaints from students about B plusses and A minuses. A minuses? It would seem that A’s are the most common grades. Which, of course, explains why my students’ GPA’s are typically in the high 3.90’s.

Since I don’t want to penalize students for taking my class—by lowering those much-cherished GPA’s—I’ve taken my standards yet another notch down. And yet, I simply can’t countenance giving A’s to more than half of my class—unless, of course, it should turn out that all of them are brilliant.

Most of my non-A recipients don’t complain, but every once in a while, one of them pulls out all the stops.

1. I have A’s in all my other classes [read: It’s you, professor, not me!]
2. I need a 4.0 in order to have a stab at a really competitive scholarship that I need in order to afford my degree.
3. I promised myself I’d maintain a 4.0 throughout my graduate career and this is the very last class on my transcript.
4. I will let down my entire extended family if I don’t maintain the 4.0 I promised them.

The psychological pressure can be tremendous, and you wish there were private discussion boards for professors to discuss the requests they’ve received from particular students. Yes, perhaps Student A received As in all his/her other classes, but perhaps all these As were groveled for.

And, increasingly important though these “skills” are in life “success,” do we really want 4.0’s to reflect such manipulative self-promotion?

Here’s my dirty little secret. In order to give my most high-achieving students their due, I’ve started quietly doing something I've never done before: giving out a small handful of A+s.

1 comment:

Paul Bruno (@MrPABruno) said...

My graduate ed school experience was very much in that vein. You had to do something pretty egregious to "earn" anything other than an 'A'.

That being said, I had some other graduate-level experience in other departments as well, and 'A's appeared to be the norm there as well.