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June 15, 2005



I feel the same as you do. I think it's only fair that those who put in the best effort be given the highest grades. ___I also agree with the comment you made in one of your classes about limiting your class load according to your schedule in order to compete effectively.__A very wise comment. I think knowing your limitations and scheduling appropriately can save a student a lot of stress.

Emily H.

I think you may well be right in a college environment (where grades are kept much more private, on the whole, and the social environment is less poisonous).

I had a bad time of it in high school when I really destroyed the curve on a few tests (in one case, I got a 97 when no one else got higher than an 80). No one else thought it was fair--and, you know, I didn't quite think it was fair either, because I was putting in hours of study on extra work, outside the bounds of the curriculum and the textbook, for my own personal benefit. I'm not really sure it was reasonable to expect everyone else in the class to come up to those standards.


Emily, I assure you I never make known those who get the highest grades! But I do think that an A ought to mean something, and what it means to me is "best in show", as it were.


Well, I entirely disagree, I'm afraid. I don't approve of "curve" grading.

Students shouldn't be measured against each other. They should be measured against an objective standard...one like, "did they learn the material?"


Anne, trust me. Any student who gets an A at the end of the class has learned the material. But if no student has reached a certain standard, the problem is less likely with them than it is with me -- and I need to change my standards. Competition seems to improve, rather than retard, actual learning.

Tony Vila

Look, are you arguing for relative grading on a deontological "what's right" scale, or on what practice makes the best results?

Deontological: I think the argument that a student's reward and what they are judged against should be independent of how other students in that class performed that year, is pretty strong. The ability for a teacher to objectively know what a C or an A is regardless of how many people got them, isn't much harder than the ability of a teacher to tell which papers are better anyway.

Pragmatic: I'm sure relative grading hasn't hurt your classroom and is fine for your situation. But it remains that relative grading is still a bad idea in many other places, and makes one of the key uses of grades (a signal to employers and other schools) suddenly collapse and have to be based on the avg of that school, class, and year.


Tony, I'm definitely arguing the latter.

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