Thursday, 15 April 2010

Grade Inflation meets Grade Deflation

A professor is booted from teaching a course because 90% of her class is getting low grads

"The class in question is an entry-level biology class for non-science majors, and, at mid-term, more than 90 percent of the students in Dr. Homberger's class were failing or had dropped the class. The extreme nature of the grading raised a concern, and we felt it was important to take some action to ensure that our students receive a rigorous, but fair, education. Professor Homberger is not being penalized in any way; her salary has not been decreased nor has any aspect of her appointment been changed."
But, as another professor pointed out,
Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke University professor who is the founder of, a Web site that publishes research on grading, questioned whether LSU was really trying to help students. "How many times has Dean Carman removed a professor from a class who was giving more than 90 percent As?" he asked.
I've seen courses like that, where the instructor more-or-less phones it in, teaches little or nothing, and gives everyone high marks. One of the students here at UAF remarked that a lab portion of a class was "Hard because you have to do something each week." As opposed to what? Showing up and doing nothing?

In some countries, there is no notion of "extra-credit" Either you've master the material or you haven't. One instructor asked if it was very common here in the United States. He wanted to know if he should automatically dock a bit from each US student's grades (which is an suboptimal solution). There's parallels with public education, where some schools are scoring higher on tests mostly because they made the tests easier.


themadengineer said...

A class where earning good grades is difficult to do doesn't sound so terrible so long as students know what's expected of them.

TwoYaks said...

The problem is that too many instructors are handing away A-s like there's no tomorrow. An A, and GPA, really doesn't mean anything when people do that. You have no real way of knowing if the student learnt something...