One particular issue the book deals with is "grade inflation" in high school. My colleague shared the following quotes:
"On average, students grades drop by 10 points [when they start university]. Alarmingly, those who come to university with the highest marks suffer the biggest drop.. . . the reason is grade inflation"And another one here:
"Universities are not total patsies, and there is a secret they don't like to broadcast. Registrars, who are responsible for university admissions, know that not all high schools are the same. Over time, they collect data on the academic experience of graduates from individual schools. They can then handicap the students from outlier schools. If Nowhere Secondary School consistently gives overly generous grades, applicants from that school will have their grade averages discounted. An 80 percent student from Nowhere Secondary School might get credit for a 'real' standing of 76%"This email elicited some interesting responses from some of my colleagues:
From one colleague:
Having a son who just entered university, let me comment on his experience. He entered university with a fairly high average. On his first paper the prof gave him a score in the 70’s. As pointed out, the result was far below what my son was accustomed to receiving. After a couple other similar scores the prof told my son that he really appreciated his work. According to the prof, my son’s writing was well beyond his classmates and more like a post-graduate student’s work. Yet the marks remained the same. So I have to ask; was my son’s work at high school inflated or is the prof’s assessment simply academic snobbery? I trust that our teachers know who the university bound students are and are doing their best to give authentic and accurate assessment to those students. I think that some of onus is on the university profs to give students accurate assessment feedback and not simply blame high schools for inflating marks.From another colleague:
In reality, I guess I knew how “to play school” (i.e. did all of the 50+ odd numbered math questions for homework; wrote my name on the top left corner of the essays; regurgitate what the teacher wanted on command on tests; coloured within the lines; had perfect attendance; “was a pleasure to have in class”; arrived on time for class; etc…).Some more thoughts:
Thankfully I learned in subsequent years at university, the creative and critical skills that would support me in my professional life.
They (the authors) also point out that preparing students for university is not the sole aim of high school so in many ways its unfair to expect high schools to cater to the needs of universities. Its impossible to deny that primary and secondary education has to deal with many issues that universities don't.....However I do agree with the deans that inflated grades aren't a measure of success regardless of the method that is used to determine them. Instead all they really do is paint a false picture of student performance. Which is why they said that the students with the highest grades suffered the most severe grade drops in university and is (in their opinion) the primary reason why the drop out rate is in university is approaching 20%.I also have some of my own questions and thoughts:
- Let's agree that grades are not the best way to measure and quantify learning. At best they are an imperfect remedy to a complex process (that is the learning process). As someone tweeted the other day, "in some instances grades corrupt ones view of success". I do believe that as educators we need acknowledge that we learn from our mistakes. Learning is a process. Like I've written before - Grading Failure is not an option
- I can only speak about my own under graduate experience in university. I am not sure we can (or should) always look to university professors as models of pedagogy and best assessment practice. Again, from my perspective, most professors that I encountered in my under graduate work were interested in their own research and writing – not necessary holistic assessment and good teaching pedagogy.
- Any time we talk about fixing "grade inflation" we get into conversation about about maintaining "high standards and expectations" and "Rigour". I think we need to be clear about what each of these ideals look like in our 21st Century Classroom.
- I have been immersed in many conversations and read much on how our K-12 system of education must adapt to the needs of our 21st century world. I am hearing much about the need to personalize learning, to emphasize key skills surrounding literacy, numeracy, critical thinking, ICT, creativity and collaboration - and how technology increasingly enhances the teaching and learning of these skills. I am participating in conversations that de-emphasize grading and, instead, magnify learning.
- Are Deans and professors having these types of conversations? Are changes imminent in post-secondary institutions? If we want to change the "system" then surely our post-secondary instututions need to be apart of this change.