This will be one of my shortest posts yet. It is New Year’s Eve, and I plan to spend the remaining 2 hours until the New Year with my family, and away from my MacBook.
However, I feel compelled to pose the question in the title of this post before doing so.
Why do we fail so many students?
I hope a rich, diverse, and, respectful discourse results from this post, perhaps after the New Year settles in more. I may need to retweet it later, too. But in the hopes that it catches someone’s attention tonight, I pose the question above.
As some context for the question, the following two tables contrast the distribution of grades I plan to assign to my 96 algebra 1 students for this past semester using the grading system I describe in an earlier post with that which they would be assigned had I used a “traditional” grading system that has the following two, primary characteristics:
1) 30% of the semester grade comes from assignments such as classwork, homework, and such, and the balance of 70% comes from assessments to include any final exam, and
2) letter grades are determined using the following scale:
- A: 90-100%
- B: 80-89%
- C: 70-79%
- D: 60-69%
- F: <60%
Pay special attention to the grouped percentages for grades of C and higher, and their complement for D and F grades.
- Aside from the coincidence in the digits themselves, what stands out to you?
- And why?
- Why do you think this disparity exists?
- What might the causes be?
- How much influence do we, as teachers, have over these outcomes?
- What data might be missing to support this comparison?
- What suggestions do you have?
- Why do most grading scales adhere to the cut scores shown above?
- What are the historical, social, mathematical, or other bases for those cut scores?
- What should we use as fair and reasonable cut scores?
By the way, Happy New Year, especially if you are reading this on December 31, 2011.
Table 1: Grade Distribution Using My “Final Grading System”
Table 2: Grade Distribution if Using a “Traditional Grading System”