top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Students learn more from tough graders

Photo: Pexels

Students learn more when their teachers have high expectations, concludes a study in North Carolina, reports Kevin Mahnken. Algebra students with "tough" teachers earned higher test scores, and did better in subsequent math courses.

High standards “change the way students engage with school,” said Seth Gershenson, an economist at American University and one of the paper’s co-authors.

Researchers compared students' course grades to their performance on end-of-year exams. "Compared with students who had previously demonstrated similar levels of math performance, those assigned to stricter graders saw larger scoring gains" in Algebra I, and did better when they got to Algebra II, Mahnken reports.

Grades were rising, but test scores were not, from 2009 to 2019, according to the High School Transcript Study. An ACT report found "significant grade inflation over 2020 and 2021, with self-reported student GPAs climbing even as ACT scores themselves did not," adds Mahnken.

(Teachers) . . . have sometimes spoken openly about softening their approach to grading as a response to COVID’s disruption to in-person learning. In big districts like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Clark County, Nevada (home to Las Vegas), new standards have deemphasized deadlines and classroom behavior, giving students more time and chances to complete graded work.

Some say easier grading standards "keep students engaged who might otherwise become frustrated or fall behind," writes Mahnken. But North Carolina students assigned to tougher graders were less likely to have unexcused absences. All groups of students benefited, said Gershenson, who called high standards “good for everybody.”

273 views4 comments
bottom of page