Special Issues in Grading
Though grading and reporting will always be debated, today we have lots of evidence on what practices benefit students and encourage learning and what practices don't. In some areas this evidence is highly consistent and offers clear prescriptions for improvement.
In this chapter we'll focus on several of the most controversial grading issues. These include grading “on the curve,” selecting valedictorians, setting grade cutoffs, using weighted grades, and dealing with grade inflation. We'll consider what we know about each of these issues and explore prescriptions for better practice. Hopefully, these discussions will lead to improvements that benefit students and satisfy both parents and educators.
As described in Chapter Three, some teachers use the normal probability curve as a basis for assigning grades (see box on page 73). They rank order students in terms of some combination of indicators and then assign grades based on set percentages of students to receive each grade. For example, the top 10 to 20 percent might receive A's, the next 20 to 30 percent B's, and so on. This practice yields highly consistent grade distributions from one teacher to the