Phi Beta Cons

Wellesley Gives Honest Grading a Try

Dr. James Thompson has a lively blog and today’s post is entitled “Do universities award honest grades?”

Largely, no.

Thompson writes, “Do we want to be honest about what the students actually know, or do we find it expedient to make them, and the university, look good? Difficult question, isn’t it? The answer takes about five seconds. The university does not want to admit that they have let in a bunch of dullards, that the teachers are incompetent, the courses misconceived, the exams too easy and the whole institution a refuge for inebriated idiots. However true, it is best not to disclose this to students, parents, and grant-giving bodies, let alone the locals who are wearily familiar with the institution’s many shortcomings.”

He goes on to discuss a paper that delves into the effects of a modest counter-move against grade inflation at Wellesley, a policy of capping the overall course grade averages at B+. The policy apparently had some effect, most noticeably in departments notorious for their lack of rigor. Overall, Thompson writes, Wellesley’s grading became “more honest and informative” but “in the long run these departments drift towards their old habits of debasing the currency.”

I recommend reading the whole thing.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.


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