Inflating Grades

How many grades do you need?

Does the amount of points make a difference?

The easiest, simplest answer to the first question is, “Whatever your administration says.” I was told students need ample opportunities to earn good grades and this message is probably repeated in most American schools.

Although, I have to admit, that I never understood this mentality. They have every opportunity to earn a good grade. Why do I have to keep creating more and more opportunities for them? That just creates more work for them and me.

No school can achieve complete equality among the student body yet educators keep trying. Do not mistake this for we should be leaving students behind because I believe it is our duty to try to reach our students. But I can’t make them all achieve the same level of intelligence. I can’t even make them all achieve the same level of achievement or completion.

Some students just work harder than others. Some students are just smarter than others.

Completing more work doesn’t necessarily mean students are going to learn the information. It only guarantees they are going to have more work to do.

Meaningful assignments are more important than grading everything.

The easiest grades I give are “Classroom Participation.” Its only purpose is to help raise the grade of the students and I told my students the purpose. Despite this, every class period has a number of students who just refused to participate. Whether it was a bad day or they were just being difficult I never understood why students wouldn’t participate.

Most of the time, all they had to do was answer a question. ONE QUESTION! Or maybe they had to raise their hand a few times voting for something. The grade was never difficult but some students just don’t want to participate.

Should I really have to create more graded opportunities so they can raise their grade?

I am a preplanning teacher. I had every graded assignment, quiz, and exam outlined for the students. They all received a copy at the beginning of each unit. Nothing could be added, only subtracted. Nothing could be moved to an earlier date, only moved back. I also gave the point value of every assignment, quiz, and exam. And yet, I heard countless times, “I’m not doing this assignment. It is only worth five points.”

Never mind that they only earned two hundred points for that unit that lasted a month. Inevitably at the end of every grading period when I brought students up to see their missing work and what they could do to bring up their grade they would say, “Guess I should have done those assignments. They added up.”

Point values matter. But I do not like to over inflate my grades. A quick five question quiz is not worth 50 points. It is worth 5 points. To differentiate the importance of a quiz and an exam, each multiple choice question on an exam is worth two points. It is subtle change but the exam is automatically weighted. But because some teachers will have a thousand-point exam, mine was always seen as less important.

It’s like saying four quarters is worth more than a dollar bill because there are four of them. Students rank each class by importance all based on their perception of point values.

I’m not saying that all teachers have to grade like I do because frankly there is no right or wrong answer but it is an interesting concept to consider when picking your point values.

Keep the point values low = constantly convincing students your assignments are important.

Keep the point values high = students begin to value work based on high point values.

Extra credit

I’d give extra when students made me laugh hysterically. A point here. A point there. They’d get excited when I would tell them I was giving them extra credit but become annoyed when I told them it was one point.

First, you are getting a free point because I laughed. You didn’t conduct a massive research project focusing on the content we were learning. What did you expect?

Second, a point is the difference between an A and a B. Or a D and an F.

But the point values become really distorted when you offer extra credit.

My actual extra credit assignments were almost always five points. A few could net a student 10 points and on the rare occasion it would be worth more. But only five students (literally, only five students) ever did the extra credit assignments because of the low point values.

Even after a year of low point values the students couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that five points was worth so much in my class.

And yet, even after all this ranting and questioning I could never overinflate grades. A quiz question in my head is still only worth one point. I can’t do it. It feels wrong.

Psychology. Amazing stuff.

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