Arnold Kling  

A Means A in the Chronicle of Higher Education

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The Chronicle reports,


The best way to eliminate grade inflation is to take professors out of the grading process: Replace them with professional evaluators who never meet the students, and who don't worry that students will punish harsh grades with poor reviews. That's the argument made by leaders of Western Governors University, which has hired 300 adjunct professors who do nothing but grade student work.

Read the whole article, which includes many of the arguments made in my business proposal.

A commenter on Google+, where I have been posting links to my blogging on education, had mentioned Western Governors. I looked them up on the Web, and I see that reviews are decidedly mixed.

Keep in mind, however, that Western Governors draws a very different clientele than Harvard. My goal in A Means A is to see whether you can improve education among those who are clearly college-capable. My impression is that Western Governors deals with a lot of students who have not necessarily proven themselves college capable. My guess is that if Harvard were dealing with a similar mix of students, its reviews would be decidedly mixed, also.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
SWH writes:

There is another interested party: the education institution. Low grades mean unhappy customers (students). Even professors wanting to grade realistically are often pressured to inflate by the administration.

JohnW writes:

That sounds like it just pushes the problem back one step and will not fool anyone.

If the professor still writes the tests (even though others grade the answers), then professors who write too difficult tests might still be marked down on their student evaluations.

Seth writes:

Seems like this is similar to the dynamics for why doctors prescribe medications instead of prescribing healthier lifestyles.

Nic Smith writes:

I think a problem here is that (most?) grading scales are not grounded to anything. A means A means... what exactly? This is supposed to be "excellent" but how good is it? Does an A in an 100-level comp. class indicate that there's a 90% probability that the individual can write a paper successfully? 80%?

Since grades are not well-defined, they are unverifiable and uncorrectable by third parties. Grading in terms of probability to complete a project at the end of the class would basically eliminate the problem, but I suspect the fact that we see very granular, noisy, and vague grade scales is because the relevant parties prefer the current vagueness.

Yvonne Lam writes:

Without proper educators there is a lack of education because educators are worried for how students will rate them on sites like "ratemyprofessor.com". Therefore, that may be a reason why the government make cuts in education because of the lack of importance of education from teachers. Moreover, students in college tend to find professors that are easy first and then the skill's of the professor second which demonstrates how students would choose to pass a class than learning the material properly. Additionally, with this thought it gives the government a reason to cut education also because students aren't learning the material properly and there are no strict standards for professors to follow.

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