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Tell Us About Your Grading Practices & How You Set Grading Standards In Your Class

I would like to invite you to join in our conversation, by posting a comment below about how you set grading standards in your class, and what you expect a student to do to meet each of those standards.  The primary focus of our proposal to increase academic rigor in Dartmouth courses is to hold faculty accountable for the standards to which they hold students.  By this we mean, what would a student have to do in your class to get each of the letter grades in the Dartmouth Scholarship Ratings.  These standards will then be used in their promotion, tenure and merit raise evaluations, along with the grade distributions they actually give to students.  In this way, faculty are held accountable for the rigor of their courses.

A very large part of our motivation is to simply spark the discussion of what do grades mean and how do you define them.  We want people to think very seriously about questions like: What techniques (e.g., exams, papers, discussion, projects) do you use to evaluate students and what goes into judging their performance in these various techniques?  What would a student have to do to fail your class, what would a student have to do to get a D or C or B or A in your class?  If you work at another school (high school, vocational school, college, university), what grading system does your institution use, and how does this factor into grading decisions?




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1 Comment

  1. Actually, I had an even more far-reaching proposal many years ago. Below are excerpts from my letter to the editor of Legal Times:

    Yes, grade inflation is rampant at D.C. area law schools. At my George Washington University Law School, where you reported that one student actually graduated with a “better-than-perfect” grade average, inflation is compelled by a mandatory grading curve imposed on the faculty. However, contrary to the impression created by your article, the grade inflation from the new curve was far from accidental or inadvertent.
    To further boost our students’ chances of getting good jobs, perhaps we should next consider a standard where grades range from a high of A++++ to a low of A, with a mean of A++. This way every graduate would have at least an A average. Indeed, we should not rest until our grading standards guarantee every student a grade point average in the top 10% of the class!
    P.S.: All of this nonsense would end quickly if interviewers required law schools to state each student’s (very easily calculated) z-score for each substantive class. A ranking of 1.5 standard deviations above the mean is much better than a ranking of 0.7 standard deviations above the mean, regardless of what either is labeled under an ever-inflating letter or number grading system.

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