So, we have a grade inflation issue and we’ve had it for some time. It’s mentioned once a year at a faculty meeting and most – as per their usual – raise their hands and say not me, not me. Just as they do when there’s food in the desks or the kids are wearing headphones or hats in class or everyone’s breaking the dress code.
As I’ve always said, when rules aren’t enforced, there are no rules. And that starts from the top down. If an administration does not ensure that the rules are followed by their students and enforced by their faculty, they only have themselves to blame.
Making a blanket statement to the faculty about this academic epidemic covers backsides. I mentioned it; therefore, it seems as if I’m concerned about it. Just like I quit smoking if I say it aloud.
The point is that if there is not a plan in place to remedy the issue, nothing will change. The people who are being addressed probably do not even realize they are the culprits. Yes, they’re that oblivious. However, when you have students who score in the 90s across the board and make the honor roll and then earn sub 1,000 scores on the SATs or habitually underperform on IOWA aptitude tests, it sounds some alarms:
- Is the course’s subject matter on or below grade level?
- Is the curricula overall challenging enough?
- Is the information being taught scaffolded properly and leading towards more enduring understanding?
- Is the instructor’s means of assessing a student indicative of understanding?
- Is the instructor using authentic assessments or superficial assessments to evaluate?
The question of grade inflation reflects poorly on everyone involved – administration and faculty. Yet, the faculty is not equal in sharing the blame, contrary to what some think. Yes, some students’ overall grades are inflated, but there are particular ones responsible. They can not be addressed as an entire staff. They have to be dealt with individually.
However, this addressing of individuals presents problems as well. It certainly is not an easy conversation to have with a headstrong adult. Hey, your means of grading students is completely and utterly flawed. And, in the process, you’re depriving a child of a good education. Instead, you should do x, y and z, which will require better planning and yield more grading. And many simply are not willing to evolve to meet this standard. If there are any standards at all.
Then, once the guilty parties are identified, then you have to look at what they actually teach. Is the curricula up to the standards in place – whether they be state standards or the standards set by an institution? This, again, is more work, but it’s getting to the root of the problem.
Still, why does it take place?
The means by which you assess is where the answer is found. Are you testing kids for memorization? Are you asking them to do more than simply regurgitate information? Are you giving the kids the exact same tests as previous years? Are you giving internet quizzes and tests with answers that can easily be found? Are you conscious of the concept of plagiarism? Do you monitor cheating? Do you not give a shit about any of the above mentioned questions?
Or do you use a combination of traditional assessment – i.e. multiple choice quizzes/tests and other recall-based measures to build base knowledge and prepare for more complex tasks – and authentic assessment – i.e. having the students put their knowledge to use on a task, like teaching a grammar concept to his/her grammar class. These task-based assessments prove a student’s ability to exhibit the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Furthermore, a teacher must consider the means he/she uses to evaluate, incorporating both oral and written forms of assessment into his/her units.
Overall, it is a necessary conversation to have on an individual basis regardless of if it hurts an adult’s feelings. My concern is not with bruising a man-or-woman-child’s ego. It is – as it always has been – with ensuring that my students not only have the knowledge they need but the means to put it into practice. It doesn’t help them if they believe themselves to be at an advanced level when in reality they are below grade level. How can they ever improve if that’s the case? They can’t.
These issues do not linger at places that have STANDARDS; that is, standards for their teachers, standards for their curricula, standards for their school.
It’s time for some people to wake up and realize that problems are not going to fix themselves. As Gandhi once said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”