Grades for Cash

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Mary Ellen sends me this article on a grade scam.

Better just to work a tad bit harder on earning the things. Then again, why not just do away with grades all together?


8 responses to “Grades for Cash”

  1. Mary Ellen says:

    Aha! Is a truly merit-based assessment system cheat proof?

  2. gibb says:

    I agree; grades only make slackers feel badly about themselves and encourage actions such as plagiarism or buying grades as mentioned in the article.

  3. Steve says:

    ME, in this case, technology was manipulated not grades. The original scores (those initially provided by the instructor) were not changed. That can only come via performance.

    Our AB system could also be “cracked” but also corrupted by false assessment of achievement.

    As Susan implies, any system of assessment (grades are not this though) can be corrupted.

    Can Marty operate the forklift? That’s the best measure.

  4. gibb says:

    While I agree that especially with instructor planning and goals to accomplish x, that if that goal has been reached, a yes or no situation would be adequate. But I also find a few ticks in the dog.

    First, it would be more subjective perhaps, as the instructor must make a decision on something that may be a matter of opinion. This holds the possibility of either helping or hurting a learning process.

    Second, while this system of “goal accomplished” is what is normally used in many companies for evaluation of employees (and, possible reward of a raise in salary), again, it is broken into “doesn’t meet standards, meets s, exceeds, far exceeds”. Doesn’t that pretty much jive with D-C-B-A with just a transfer to a coding system of letters?

    Third, many instructors–and you in particular–aren’t really teaching at a “goal accomplished” level but take it further into “this kid needs help” and just as seriously into “this kid shines” and take the appropriate measures to push the student further than they thought they could go.

    I think that everyone operates on a different level, and that level is not necessarily applied evenly to all topics of learning. For example, I might not be upset about a D in Astronomy but I would certainly strive for an A in English or Math and question my efforts and comprehension for less.

  5. Steve says:

    Points noted, but don’t you think it also comes down first to determining the key elements of learning. What does a student come to the college to learn, what should the institution offer as examples of learning, and what is the mission of the college, which guides its core elements?

    Consider a carpentry shop as a place where learning and application go hand in hand. The same questions that apply to the institution above apply to the shop, its leader, and employees, with a just a few tweaks.

    Employee A s a good mechanical thinker. Employee B takes on the real tough and complicated jobs that everyone knows require more than just good MT but an interesting design sense. We can clock both A and B’s ability only if we know what were clocking.

    Now consider writing. Why should a college teach writing specifically r even reading, when these skills can easily be acquired prior to college, where writing and reading become applicability-based, a means to learn? What the hell is that? Yet, writing itself can easily be assessed because of conventions and rules–grammar, structure, clarity, style. Most people are okay writers but when it comes to applying knowledge or gaining it through writing, te stumbling happens because of the complicated notions that need to be controlled via medium

  6. gibb says:

    Crap. I just deleted the reply somehow and I don’t think that I can take it ’cause it took so long to bake it and I’ll never have that recipe again….

    In other words, eloquence lost in space.

  7. Deb says:

    Let me preface this post by saying that I hate posting and therefore almost never do. However, this topic is compelling and I could not ignore it…

    I think that the entire construct of grading and even parts of the education system lend themselves to these kinds of problems. Resumes and portfolios should determine the kinds of courses or experiences that a student will require in order to reach their training goals (ideally, education is training for a career or vocation of some kind). Attainment of goals and objectives should be demonstrated and relevant.

    The current system is often not relevant to “real” life and therefore students do not take it as seriously as we would like. Students see grades as arbitrary and feel that they will be able to achieve their professional goals without achieving academic excellence. If the learning and experiences were connected to the desired outcome then students would be more invested. Evidence of achievement would be demonstrated and obvious (Marty would be operating the forklift- how well could be judged by others who know how to operate a forklift).

    This idea of relevance is a pivotal one. When we talk about how we are going to improve our current education system, it doesn’t get nearly enough “air time”.

    Have a good weekend.

    Deb

  8. Mary Ellen says:

    Maybe I’m still too naive about all of this college stuff, but it would never occur to me to impersonate something I’m not, which is essentially what these kids did in CA, as well as anyone who writes down a thought that’s not theirs (or classically, copies the whole schmiel and passes it along as their own). Back to Marty and his forklift: what goes through their minds when they take credit for these courses they haven’t passed? I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t have any great revelations in my level 1 classes, so yeah, bump it up to a B, A, A+, whatever–I doubt in my lifetime someone’s going to ask me for my deep burning opinion of Gilgamesh. But 5 years gave some of these individuals enough time to fake out an entire degree program. What will they do when they get in the driver’s seat?

    Consequences. There haven’t been any for a couple of generations now, and I think it’s beginning to show–I’d start with Washington (DC), but it’s been a difficult week already.

    The AB style of assessment has at its very core the assumption that a student will walk out of the class knowing more, doing more, than he did when he entered the semester. This is proven simply–and only–by the student’s work. A rational judgment of improvement can be made by any instructor, not just the course professor, to defend the grades that are finally rendered.

    What’s to stop them from changing those grades in the parking lot? A total non-access program with no hard copies, I guess. Kids have been changing grades for as long as they’ve been getting them, but geez, at the college level, they should be considered sacred… (I did say I was still naive).