How flawed is the grading system in schools?

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Story time!
My english teacher had an open forum one day and she allowed the students to discuss issues and how they feel about school. Many have said the school had a competitive atmosphere and the pressure to get good grades (honor roll, straight A’s etc.) stressed them daily. My English teacher had said, “Honestly, I hate grading. I wish I did not have to give grades at all but I have to according to the principal. Seriously, how do you grade someone’s intelligence?”

Later in the discussion someone brought up the point that, “grades are not accurately a reflection of intelligence at all. If you let a letter on a piece of paper define your intellectual abilities then you are a fool to believe that.” This was a point that influenced several other responses from students.

Here are a few notable points students had said during the discussion that astonished me:
“I do work here but I don’t really have a motivation for actually doing work in school.”

“School, nowadays does not grade on intelligence but emphasizes hard work.”

“I hope teachers know I have a social life but slowly kill it when ever we get free time out of school especially on holidays. We need a social life to function efficiently in society.

“I have seen the brightest students in my years of teaching here and have bad grades because they do not do the work or turn it in. Really, to survive school is basically just to do the work.” – Teacher

“I hate how my friends from my other schools have like straight A’s or honor roll and I take the same classes as them but I barely pass.”

Personally I find the grading system outrageous. Society has manipulated it as a indicator of intelligence. With the amount of cheating and violations of academic integrity rising in competitive schools why does it even matter? Sure, you had Straight A’s in school but in reality you do not know self defense or something of equal importance.

Are there any possible solutions to fixing or changing the grading system?
Also, how is the grading system where you live like?

 
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Yes, the grading system should be based on intelligence. That’s the idea. I think that whole “you tried, have a cookie” nonsense is complete rubbish. While yes, it encourages hard work, it also limits true talent’s ability to shine through. The fact of the matter is that there are stupid people. It’s not a problem of society, or some great realization; it’s a simple fact.

Now, do I think hard work should be rewarded? Absolutely, however, brilliance shouldn’t be cheapened to who tries to do what, rather who can do what. The real objective of schooling isn’t to make everyone feel good about themselves regardless of what they try to do. Hard workers are rewarded in many other ways, but I think that education is to equip its students with the skills they need, not give them a pat on the back for trying to do something they’re not good at.

Perhaps this is a question for the meritocracy thread, and it meanders from your main question to some extent, but that’s how I feel. I realize this post may sound elitist, but let’s be honest with ourselves, do we want to give less qualified people credit for something they can’t do, but tried to regardless of whether or not they care much for the subject at hand, or do we want to give brilliant people credit for landmark achievements within their scope of expertise?

 
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The problem with the grading system is grade inflation (and, to a lesser extent, lack of comparability between schools, as one of the quotes in the OP notes).

An A should mean that the student knows 90% of the material covered in the class. However, with grades given for participation, homework assignments where the student is free to use any and all resources at his/her disposal, frequent extra credit assignments and bonus points, etc.; the value of an A is cheapened.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the concept of grading—it is the best way to quantitatively show if a student has learned the material covered in the class. However, at most schools, grading in its current form does a poor job of meeting that goal.

 
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Are there any possible solutions to fixing or changing the grading system?

Get rid of grades altogether. Have intelligence and capability assessed through spoken tests and demonstrations of ability. Then, rather then placing a defined letter grade, describe the student’s abilities and such.
College admission officers or people who care about your school quality will have more work to do — reading more — but it will be more descriptive and in depth.
A paragraph or a page is certainly a better depiction of a student than a single letter, especially if constructed by professionals.

Also, how is the grading system where you live like?

Highly inflated. Among the kids in the advanced placement classes, a GPA above 4 is quite common. Homework assignments are dealt out in both advanced and normal level classes at a rate that deems tests nearly meaningless. Furthermore, extra credit opportunities and expectation levels are ridiculously low.
Someone who performed C-level work (pretending that the C is an accurate depiction) easily gets an A.
Someone I know performs incredibly well on tests, 100% consistently, yet is failing her classes. Why? She didn’t do her homework.

 
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empty reward systems are essential to conditioning people to be obedient, docile sheep.

 
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There is a school in Swizerland where students are not graded at all. They were given certain goals that should be reached in order for them to be competent in a subject and they had to organise their work in order to meet the goals they wanted to reach. If they had the feeling that they were not good enough they could take different courses, repeat them, get help from teachers, work together with other students etc.
The teachers there are really instructors and people you can go to if you need help. They really advise every student individually and look at his development and not only on his grades at a given time.
In order to graduate they have to write a test at a “normal” school, but despite their radically different curriculum and school system they performed above average there. The developed a sense of responsibility for their education. There was no teaching to the test there. There was learning to become competent.

What is extremely funny is that teachers are actually taught in their education and training that they should more or less work similarly to how it is done in this private school. The ultimate goal for every teacher is to make his kids responsible and competent. But usually this is near impossible due to large classes and the pressure put on them by the system. Currently the selective function of the school is extremely exaggerated and in my opinion the reason for this is the focus on economic interests. School is often seen promarily as a place to form the workforce of tomorrow and in order to get the best one possible the students need to be tested all the time so that you can sort them from worst to best and “get rid” of the worst ones.
It’s a different perspective on school; one that in my opinion focuses on quick, comparable, standardised results based on ways of thinking prevalent in the economy and put forth by companies that have an interest in education to provide them with the best workers, nicely ordered so that they can easily pick the best ones.

I don’t like this perspective.
At all.
It actually lead me to think about quitting more than once. But I am too much of an idealist to do that.
One day this will drive me into a burnout. I just know it. I wouldn’t be the first one.

For clarification: tests are important tools to determine how good someone can solve certain problems that should be solvable with the stuff he has learned so far. But tests are purely descriptive and isolated and more than anything should be a source of feedback. Right now they are labels that are put onto someone and will stay with him indefinitely. I have learned a lot from bad tests. I went through them to find my weak spots and worked on them. But the bad grade was there, because of that one test that didn’t work so well. The fact that I managed to learn from this was completely irrelevant for the grading process.
This is a perversion of testing.

 
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The only reason I try to keep my grades good is so the whole school doesn’t call me a complete dumb ass. Yeah almost everyone judges you on your GPA, I think it’s real bull crap because some students aren’t as gifted as others.

 
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Originally posted by Rpoman2009:

The only reason I try to keep my grades good is so the whole school doesn’t call me a complete dumb ass. Yeah almost everyone judges you on your GPA, I think it’s real bull crap because some students aren’t as gifted as others.

However, a 3.0 in quantum mechanics looks better than a 3.2 in basket weaving.
quantum mechanics…first truly hard class I’ve ever taken. (Well, that i actually liked. i don’t really think much of english 101 etc.)

 
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How loaded are some of the thread titles on these forums?

 
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Originally posted by TheBSG:

How loaded are some of the thread titles on these forums?

Meh, you could argue that creating extremely biased questions desigined to lead the respondants’ thoughts down one particular train of thought, is the path that some education systems (US-based psychology, anyone?) are actually trying to instill in their students.

After all, your conclusions nicely support your opening hypothesis if you are careful to bias your research data in that direction.

 
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Originally posted by racefan12:

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the concept of grading—it is the best way to quantitatively show if a student has learned the material covered in the class. However, at most schools, grading in its current form does a poor job of meeting that goal.

This works both ways. In one particularly shitty college course I was in, I saw a student complete all of his assignments, show up on time everyday (except one sick day with a Dr’s note), pass the exams on the first try with a B+ average, and still be awarded an F for the course. The instructor seriously didn’t like him and pulled out an obscure regulation to make this work. I’m still scratching my head over how, legally, they could do that.

 
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Originally posted by Twilight_Ninja:
Originally posted by racefan12:

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the concept of grading—it is the best way to quantitatively show if a student has learned the material covered in the class. However, at most schools, grading in its current form does a poor job of meeting that goal.

This works both ways. In one particularly shitty college course I was in, I saw a student complete all of his assignments, show up on time everyday (except one sick day with a Dr’s note), pass the exams on the first try with a B+ average, and still be awarded an F for the course. The instructor seriously didn’t like him and pulled out an obscure regulation to make this work. I’m still scratching my head over how, legally, they could do that.

[shudders in horror]

 
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Originally posted by brandenzard:

Story time!
My English teacher had said, “Honestly, I hate grading. I wish I did not have to give grades at all but I have to according to the principal. Seriously, how do you grade someone’s intelligence?”

I think the premise is flawed. I will be the first to admit that education is seriously flawed, but any teacher who feels that the purpose of grades is to measure someone’s intelligence doesn’t understand their (simple) purpose as a teacher.

Intelligence is cumulative, and even cumulative “grades” are still, as someone mentioned earlier, isolated. Intelligence, by its nature, is not isolated. If I get a D in Russian I, that no more means I’m stupid—I got an A, btw—than not being able to beat Halo’s Campaign mode on Easy means one is bad at video games. To say such a thing is a gross generalization that misses the point of grading. Testing is localized. The reason grades are used is because the subjects that they’re used FOR generally require mental aspects that we more often than not assume to be markers for intelligence.

To the invisible parent who says his or her kid is smart in spite of the fact that the kid didn’t test well on the reading portion of the state’s elementary school aptitude test: your kid failed because he hasn’t developed the ability to read a paragraph of concrete words and view the smaller entities as a larger whole, formulate the abstract concept trying to be conveyed, and figure out which of the four available answer choices is most like that abstract concept. Is the ability to do that intelligence in and of itself? No, but the ability to comprehend and infer is a huge indicator thereof, and anyone who has to have every single thing spelled out for them is considered a simpelton. You may think your kid is smart, but the test shows him performing much more poorly than his peers on an ability most people consider integral to functioning in society.

A low grade on a cumulative test such as one of those is considered largely indicative of intelligence because the questions of the test rely on commonly applied intelligence factors. The purpose of the test is to measure those. Tests are also designed to measure the application of concepts. The person who memorizes “25 × 25 = 625” is not intelligent. They’re simply knowledgable. The intelligent person is the one who knows how to find out the answer, i.e. do multiplication. Any schmoe can sit in a speech or government or sociology class and attend every class and take every note, but the purpose of the class isn’t to take the best notes. The purpose of the class is to learn the concepts taught and be able to apply them in different situations. In this way, the purpose of the non-cumulative test/grade is to be an objective indicator of how well the student has learned the material, and in this regard they’re generally pretty successful.

Complex mollecular biology is not easy.
Advanced calculus is not easy.
Learning a language that is fundamentally different in practically every way from your birth language is not easy.

I think these classes highlight what I see as the other flaw in your argument, which is that you separate hard work and intelligence. People don’t magically become doctors just because they’re smart. They become doctors because they dedicate years to studying single subjects. They hone their abilities to think both abstractly and discriminately. They memorize a wealth of complex information. And if they don’t understand something, they have to problem solve out the ass. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. All those kids say they feel the pressure to get good grades but then can’t be bothered to put in the effort to meet those expectations? I would label them unintelligent. Their long-term planning skills suck. They’re not rationalizing. They sure as hell don’t sound self-aware. Popular media is rife with characters who fail for lack of effort and succeed for abundance thereof, yet none of them have seen feet to absorb those abstract concepts and apply them to their own lives. Those kids aren’t not intelligent because they don’t know the material. They’re not intelligent because they’re not trying, and any piss-poor grades they receive as a result of that lack would be accurate, in my opinion.

I wonder what they’d think if we applied their logic to the real world:

“I do work here but I don’t really have a motivation for actually doing work at my job.”

“Jobs, nowadays do not promote on intelligence but emphasize hard work.” [the horror!]

“I have seen the brightest coworkers in my years of working here, and get fired because they do not do the work or show up. Really, to survive a job is basically just to do the work.”

For shame. Someone should really reform that whole hiring and firing thing.

I was going to do the “I hate how my friends from my other schools have like straight A’s or honor roll and I take the same classes as them but I barely pass.” one as well, but (forgive me for saying so) it’s just such an asinine thing to say. If someone in your class actually said that and doesn’t realize the error in their logic, they are not intelligent. The problem does not lie with the system. It lies with them.

 
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I happen to be taking A-level physics and chemistry at a sixth form college right now (“college”, in this case, meaning a facility for tertiary education located somewhere in England), which means I hold the dubious honor of being able to explain what is quite possibly the stupidest method of testing in any syllabus in England, and certainly the most ridiculous method I’ve seen.

Now, to explain properly, I’ll have to digress a bit, so bear with me. At the college I go to, A-level sciences are taught according to the AQA syllabus, and this means splitting an individual subject into six units apiece, three per year. Here’s the thing, though – only the first two units in each year of teaching are exam units (each worth 40% of the grade for that year). These are units 1 and 2 for AS, and units 4 and 5 for A2. This leaves units 3 and 6 for AS and A2 respectively, which are occupied by these things called ISAs, worth 20% of the yearly grade each.

Now, here’s how the ISAs work. First of all, you do a practical experiment relating to one of the other two units for that year (and yes, you do do two ISAs in a year, although only one of them is counted for marks), and then use the results obtained from this experiment to help with the actual ISA, which is a written assessment split into two sections, one relating to your experiment, and the other relating to a somewhat similar experiment to yours. Now, this paper isn’t like the normal exam papers in the first two units of the year, where answering questions is relatively straightforward; half the time, the ISA paper requires that you word answers to the question in a very specific manner, and if you don’t, you don’t get the marks for that question. What makes it worse is that the experiment only awards maybe 20% of the marks, with the paper giving most of them, which obviously sucks if you aren’t academically minded.

But that’s not the worst part. Oh, no, no. You want to know where things get utterly retarded?
The actual marking system for the ISA.

Here’s how it works. The marks given for experiment and paper are combined to give a total out of fifty. Then, these fifty marks are given values on a separate scale of 60 UMS marks, which are what actually give you your grades when everything else is said and done. Now, all things considered, you’d expect a mark of 25 on the ISA to equate to about 30 UMS marks, which is about 50%, and for the normal exam papers, this seems to be the case. On the ISAs? They skew the marks in favour of the top end. As in, that 50% score of 25? Worth maybe 20% of possible UMS, and a U in terms of grades, a.k.a. F-equivalent, a.k.a. unit failure. To even get the lowest pass grade of an E, you have to get about 30 marks, and the UMS doesn’t catch up to the actual marks until you’re past 35. As in, you need more than 70% on the actual marks to get as much in the UMS scheme. For a good grade, say, B or higher, you need more than 40 marks total, and eventually, you’re at 100% UMS… at 90% of actual marks, i.e. 45/50, or thereabouts.

How did they manage this? Well, they basically award very low amounts of UMS for each actual mark at lower levels; then, beyond a certain point, one actual mark ends up being worth several UMS marks, such that UMS eventually overtakes actual marks, and the former caps out well before the latter. In short, there are literally only 2-4 actual marks between most of the grade boundaries, and you can forget about a pass grade if you’re getting less than 60% overall.

Supposedly, this method of giving marks developed as a way to separate high- and low-level students in the science-y subjects, where the normal exams might fail to do so. And it works to separate students, alright… only, it rewards high-level students for doing well, and utterly destroys the final UMS score and subsequent grade of mid-level students, or even students not used to the picky system of giving marks for answers to the questions in the paper. Because let’s face it: if you’re stupid, no method of alternative testing is going to distinguish you. Fortunately, as I said before, they are only 20% of the final grade overall, so doing well in the actual exams can pull your grades back up to a reasonable standard if units 3 and 6 went badly for you. I just hope you weren’t looking forward to that A, is the thing.

Does this relate to the main topic? Sort of: whilst the actual subject of whether or not the schooling system in whatever country emphasizes willingness to work over actual intellect has been somewhat avoided, I have given evidence that, at least in some cases, the methods used to grade people can get to utterly broken states, becoming effectively worthless when implemented. So in my opinion, yes, the system does need changing. Those godforsaken ISAs need to be chucked, certainly… m’yes.

 
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I appreciate your input. I may have made the topic a bit broader than is necessary. This is not entirely bad as I was at least able to at least acquire more perspectives than I originally had.

What would be an effective way to educate students nowadays or is the current system sufficient?

 
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I’m sorry for not trying to discuss the recent question “What would be an effective way to educate students?” but I’d like to give a bit more input concerning grading systems outside the US. Like BCLEGENDS, I’m from Europe, but from Germany instead of England, to be exactly.
We use a system that seems to be quite common in middle- to eastern Europe (I don’t know if they use it elsewhere). We don’t use grades from A to F, but from 1 to 6. They mean the same, essentially, so A=1, B=2, …, F=6 (fun fact: in eastern Europe it’s the other way round: 6 is an A, 1 is an F and so on. Which can lead to some confusion with exchange students.)
This means that we don’t need to score points which make up our grades at the end of the year, but that we just take the average of the marks we get during the year. So if you get a 1 (A), a 5 (E) and a 2 (B) that’s and average of 2,66, rounded up to 3 ©. So that’s it.

It’s a bit more complicated, actually. Teachers have to get three marks for each student during the semester at least. So you get a grade which is an average of the marks of the first semester, and then you get a grade for the six marks you collected during the whole year after the second semester. (The certificate of the first semester is actually quite useless. Only the one from the second will decide if you pass the class or not.) Students can acquire extra-marks by doing certain tasks (giving a talk, getting your homework rated, etc.), but homework is rarely rated at all. Actually, I completely stopped doing homework since I was twelve or thirteen years old. (apart from so called “long term homework”, which is essentially a test you do at home, for example an essay or a paper) While teachers don’t like it, they rarely do anything against such behavior.
Also, we have multiple types of schools (although some people/states try to abolish this system). We all go to elementary school for 4 to 9 years (depending on the state) and are divided into “Realschule” which ends after a total of ten years (so if you went to elementary for four, you will have another six in the “Realschule”), “Gymnasium” (comparable to English Grammar Schools; it lasts twelve to thirteen years) and “Hauptschule” (lasts 9 years). To go to university, you have to go to the Gymnasium and get your “Abitur” (so, finish class 12/13), Realschule and Hauptschule are for getting jobs that don’t need a degree at a university. Hauptschule hat slightly inferior requirements, so you have better chances with Realschule. (You can still get these degrees at Gymnasium too. And after you finish Realschule for example, you can then go to a Gymnasium and get your Abitur so you can go to a university.)
(It get’s even more complicated than this because Germany is divided into 16 states and they all have slightly different school systems. Which makes it even harder to compare grades, even when you just move into another state of Germany… For example, in class 11 and 12 we have a slightly different system for grading, from 0 (worst) to 15 (best), but I don’t want to go into detail here. There’s actually a quite good article about it on TV Tropes .)

And while there is still some criticism here in Germany concerning our system, it actually seems better than the ones I read about here. For example, the problem with bonus assignments mentioned doesn’t exist here, also, it’s not just a matter of accumulating enough points to pass the class. (fun fact: teachers can give the better mark even with a average of x.6 and the worse one even with x.4, so if you are actually intelligent and the teacher acknowledges this, you might get a better mark of someone who just memorized facts without understanding them). For example, I did rarely do homework (as said before) and I rarely studied too (apart from latin vocabulary). Still, I never got an average worse than 2,5 (C+) and no grade at the end of a semester worse than 4 (D). And while there are people who do fail classes, it’s actually quite hard to do so. In my state, you need at least a D in every subject or a D and every subject apart from one where you must have at least a E, and even if you have an F or more than one D you can still compensate this by having grades two grades A, B or C (the last one only for grades E). By the way, you have like twelve subjects and D means you must have at least 50% of the points in a test.

(also, please excuse any grammatical errors)

 
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Where I live the grade system has some major flaws:

The Highschool and University Exams. For good ones, you have to score good in the tests. The problem is, there is cheating and the exam happens only in ONE day. So, if you were sick in the exam day and you scored badly, it affects your life. It is in the morning and the exam places are given close to your school (not very close), so you may have to travel for a hour and a half to go there, being more sleepy and less fresh-minded.

Grading and assesments: It is not A-B-C-D-E in my country, it is 0(0-25), 1(25-45), 2(45-55), 3(55-70), 4(75-85), 5(85-100). The 0 to 5 grades aren’t important at all, your grades form 1 to 100 are calculated. Teachers grade and asses differently, e.g I have a teacher who makes very hard quizzes and gives NEGATIVE points for blanks. He breaks points for simple things, e.g if your stapler (needed material) which worked the day before doesn’t work, you lose points? How could you know that? Assesments, while what they grade is a mixture of adequate working (Simply not hard working, I never work hard and my grades are excellent) and capacity to understand, which is good, aren’t focusing on everyone. They don’t consider that I’m not interested at all with the dates I’m bound to forget in a week or literature. By assessing note-taking skills, They don’t consider that I may be better at not note-taking, or I may like to simply write thing messily.

Rift between rich and poor: The rich simply gets better education and chance to have private tutor/courses, while the poor doesn’t. This is unfair in the university and high school, since the rich have more chance to get better grades.

Another thing is that your school grades are added some way with some percentage to your high school (not private schools)/university exams. While some have worse grades because their schools are bad-grading, some schools give everyone 100 because they want their students to win better schools.

There are many other flaws in the education system, not the grading system, but I’m not going to write them because it is not the topic and my hand already aches and it will kill me from pain if I write all of them (That would take several hours.)