December 13, 2013

FOR THE SAME REASON YOUR DOCTOR TREATS YOUR "ILLNESS":

Why Do Ivy League Teachers Inflate Grades?  (ALLISON SCHRAGER, 12/13/13, QUARTZ)

The revelation that the median grade at Harvard is an A- prompted lots of discussion, especially among Ivy-league educated journalists. Some speculated high grades reflect intelligence. Others say professors just want their students to get jobs, or, selfishly, they want favorable teaching evaluations. As a teaching assistant in the economics department at Columbia, I too inflated student grades, but for none of those reasons.

I just didn't want to deal with all the complaining.

Of course, I (and every other graduate student and professor I worked with) read everyone's work carefully and especially rewarded students who demonstrated a solid understanding of the material. But the distribution of grades was very narrow. Great work got an A, pretty good to average got an A-, slightly below average was a B+, not great was a B, very bad was a B-. Anything below was akin to failure and required showing zero effort or even hostility to the class.

We all cared about teaching and fairness. But the real reason so many of us inflate grades is to avoid students complaining.
Posted by at December 13, 2013 6:27 PM
  
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