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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Ungrading' college

Many colleges have dropped admissions tests to promote diversity and equity: Applicants who grew up with educated (or Asian) parents and went to rigorous schools do a lot better than less-advantaged students. Plus tests are stressful.

Now colleges are "ungrading" the first year of classes -- or more, reports Hechinger's Jon Marcus. The goal is to promote equity and relieve stress, especially for first-generation and not-so-prepared students. Instead of A-F grades, students may receive a "pass" -- or have a failed course erased from the transcript.

"Some of the momentum behind un-grading is in response to growing concerns about student mental health," writes Marcus. "The number of college students with one or more mental health problems has doubled since 2013, according to a study by researchers at Boston University and elsewhere."

“I really fear that we’re shooting the messenger because we don’t like what we’re hearing,” said Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Eliminating grades is "setting up students “to slam into the wall, ultimately,” and end up with a “ticket-to-nowhere diploma that doesn’t represent the mastery of skills that will equip the person for success.”

Only 25 percent of high school students who took the ACT test last year met all four college-readiness benchmarks, which predict success in first-year college courses, noted Poliakoff. Thirty-eight percent met none.

Jody Greene, special adviser to the provost for educational equity and academic success at University of California at Santa Cruz, believes grades “are terrible motivators for doing sustained and deep learning. . . . if we were to shift our focus on to learning and away from grades, we would be able to tell whether we were graduating people with the skills that we say we’re graduating them with.”

How? Ouija boards?

College degrees are losing value, even as tuition keeps going up. If employers think graduates were passed along without demonstrating academic or coping or time-management skills, will they buy the "deeper learning" line? Good luck with that.

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13 comentarios

11 oct 2022

I really don't understand why the government doesn't take my advice--which I frequently offer--to issue college graduation certificates at same time it issues birth certificates.

Equity problem solved!

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10 oct 2022

Interestingly, MIT long had the entire Freshling year be Pass/Fail (or Pass/No Report). For the last while, the first Frosh semester is Pass/No Report, and the second is ABC/No Report. But MIT's considerably different than the vast majority of colleges in that 1) Everyone admitted is really good. No legacies or athlete special admissions and I don't think any donor preference. In large part, this is because there is no easy path to graduation; freshling year everyone has to take (or place out of) a year of physics and a year of Calculus that's closer to two years of material at most other schools. MIT knows how hard it is, and has no incentive to admit students who almost certainly…

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09 oct 2022

The Gravy Train is going to collapse starting with permanent enrollment declines of 10-15% an non selective colleges as the large decline in the birthrate during the great recession of 2008-2010 will come into play...

College enrollment will continue to decline for the high school pipeline due to declining birth rates...

I suspect many colleges will either be forced to merge, change their enrollment model (i.e. - target non-traditional students, etc) or simply close.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
08 oct 2022

Employers will probably have to draw up a list of universities whose degrees they recognize, and assess everyone else, before granting them an interview; and UC Santa Cruz, if it follows Ms Greene's advice, will almost certainly be among the latter group, the universities whose degrees will have lost recognition and value.

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07 oct 2022

Employers already know grades are meaningless. That's why employers go to great lengths to give interviews that are a variety of specific skill tests. It's why they want to see you write or spell or code or computer or build in front of them before hiring you, and make you go through multiple rounds to prove it repeatedly. They assume you don't know what you should unless you prove otherwise.

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