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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Lowering expectations doesn't lead to 'equity'

It's easier to get A's and harder to get an education, writes Fordham's Michael Petrilli. Expectations started falling and grades inflating before Covid, then went even lower. Now "equity" grading has made grades an even less reliable measure of achievement.


"Elite colleges can’t rely on student grades to send clear signals because almost everyone applying for admission gets straight A’s," he writes. "On the other end of the academic spectrum, our high school graduation rate is higher than ever, in part because standards for graduation —which are of course tied to getting passing grades in required courses — are lower than ever (yay?)."



Students learn more from teachers who are tough graders, research has shown, he writes. They do better in future years because they've learned to work harder.


But some "equity" reforms encourage students to ease up, writes Petrilli. Some districts have set 50 percent as the minimum grade for any test or assignment, including those never done. Others tell teachers not to grade homework or give points for turning it in. There are no late penalties for assignments.


Lowering expectations and eroding students' work habits doesn't just affect the low achievers, writes Petrilli. The "strivers and grinders" also will adapt. "If they build up a high-enough A early in the quarter, they know they can bomb some later quizzes or skip some assignments and still get what they need for their transcripts. So they put in less work."


He suggests letting teachers decide when and how to discount bad grades early in the term if students do better as they go on.


Clear rubrics and blind grading would reduce teacher bias, Petrilli writes.


"Equitable" grading "has exacerbated grade inflation," while providing "little evidence of greater learning," write Meredith Coffey and Adam Tyner in a Fordham brief.


Lenient policies "tend to reduce expectations and accountability for students, hamstring teachers’ ability to manage their classrooms and motivate students, and confuse parents and other stakeholders who do not understand what grades have come to signify."


A few equity-motivated grading reforms are worthwhile, such as "eliminating most extra credit assignments and implementing rigorous grading rubrics."


"Pop romanticism" -- the idea that incentives undermine students’ intrinsic desire to learn -- weakens the analysis in Off the Mark: How Grades, Ratings, and Rankings Undermine Learning (but Don’t Have To), writes Tyner.


Authors Jack Schneider and Ethan L. Hutt argue that "holding students accountable through measures such as grades and test scores is inherently misguided," writes Tyner. However, "many studies show benefits to students when they are held accountable for their academic performance, whether from strict-grading teachers, large cash incentives for academic success, or classroom reward systems."

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15 Comments


bkwormtoo
Apr 06

To kill personal responsibility, initiative, or success, punish it. To encourage irresponsibility, mediocrity, and failure, reward it.

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Steve Sherman
Steve Sherman
Apr 01

DEI = 'Didn't earn it'

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Richard Rider
Richard Rider
Mar 22

Philanthropists and taxpayers should consider terminating funding for most colleges. Without some admission standards, funding these universities is a huge waste of student time and donor money.


Moreover, the students will be bitter failures when they find that their lack of a meaningful education translates into low level job opportunities.


Of course, with the "critical race thinking" propaganda, they will blame racism, sexism, whatever-ism.


The vaunted Californian UC system has now announced that it will likely adopt a de facto equity-based admission system with no meaningful merit standards. Ill-prepared dunderheads will flood every field of academia. Even the STEM fields.


I never donate to colleges -- including my own. For decades, I've made most of my contributions to think tanks…


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Richard Rider
Richard Rider
Mar 22
Replying to

Correct. That's been there policy UP UNTIL NOW.


With the woke mentality now taking charge, it would be considered the worst form of discrimination to discourage nitwits and halfwits from going into the better-paying STEM fields.

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m_t_anderson
Mar 21

Apocryphal Faulkner: "I give all my students A's and let life fail them."


Movie Wizard of Oz: "I can't give you a brain, but I can give you a diploma."

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superdestroyer
Mar 20

High standards only work when the public and management is will to tolerate a much higher rate of failure. The easing on grading and the passing of virtually everyone is just a way for the workers to keep management happy.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Mar 25
Replying to

You keep claiming that I'm making claims that I'm not making -- you erect this straw man three times in the above comment, followed by the tired trope "is laughable" (or "is the highest level of foolishness"); we differ in the definition of failure, since you make many references to outcomes (such as not getting into Seoul National University) that virtually no one regards as a failure, and we don't do so for good reason.

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