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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Grade inflation?

According to an article in this morning’s Boston Globe, the principal of Hopkinton High School has raised the grades assigned by a math teacher with 25 years of experience:
Hopkinton High School teacher Rachel Bartlett appeared before the School Committee this week to complain about being asked to bump up grades for a mediocre group of 11th-grade students. She refused, but the grades were raised anyway, lifting the overall class average from 70 to 77...

Bartlett, a 25-year veteran of the Hopkinton schools, told the School Committee Thursday that she tries to maintain high standards for all her students and wasn’t pleased with what this year’s group achieved. But, she said, “This past year I had two sections of students with particularly weak skills and poor work habits. The grades reflected that level of skill and effort.” She added that few students took advantage of extra help when it was offered...

Bartlett told the committee that Gould asked her to change the grades and “meet the students where they were.”...
Yes, of course we have to meet the students where they are. That’s in September. But then we take them somewhere else, and we should grade them according to what they know and what they’ve learned along the way. It doesn’t do students a service to give them high grades when they don’t know anything.

The problem is exacerbated when students don’t take advantage of opportunities for extra help. But even when they do, effort can only take you so far. If you haven’t demonstrated competence in what you’re supposed to be learning, what message is being sent when you are given a high grade?

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