Changing the Grading System Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Changing the Grading System: An Efficient Way to Improve Student Performance Evaluation?

The current state of the educational system in the American society has numerous issues to contend with, and one of these main issues is the formulation and implementation of an appropriate grading system to effectively measure and determine student performance in schools and universities. There have been numerous articles printed and published that suggests for a change in the current grading system in the curriculum of the U.S. educational system, which are the letter grades. Alongside this proposal is the suggestion for implementation of other forms of grading systems such as the numerical, narrative or mixed mode (combination of both numerical/letter and narrative) forms of grading. However, while programs gearing for a change in the grading system are prevalently called upon, there are also proponents who have disagreed with these changes and opted for the abolishment of grading in formal education. These perspectives will be discussed in detail in this paper, and each grading system and perspective regarding the issue of changing the grading system will be analyzed through its advantages and disadvantages to school evaluation and student performance. Primarily, the stance of this paper is for the support of the implementation of the mixed -mode or the combination of numerical/letter or the narrative grading system. The points for and against this choice will be discussed later in this paper.

Grading is the standard measure of the present educational system that enables instructors and professors to evaluate and determine in standard formats and simple terms the performance of the student in his or her schooling. Grading is a vital component in the education of students because of the following reasons:

Grading informs students, parents, employers, and administrators of the present status and progress of the student;

Grading promotes positive public relations with colleges, universities, professional schools, and employers, who depend on them for admission and hiring;

It motivates teachers/instructors/professors and students to improve the teaching-learning process; and To evaluate the effectiveness of instruction and provide evidence that students are achieving the standards adhered to by educational institutions.

Adapted from "Grading Systems" from the Brigham Young University web site)

The following objectives clearly outlines the importance of grading in educational institutions, and there exists various forms of grading systems subsisted to by different educational systems in different societies at present. The grading systems currently in use today are the letter, numerical, narrative, and combination of numerical-narrative grading systems.

The letter grade system is the prevailing form of grading in the American educational system at present. The letter grading systems utilizes letters as the measure of student performance an evaluation. Letter grades are based on an interval kind of measurement, wherein a broad range of grades are categorized under a letter grade 'representative.' For example, a grade of B. can range from a numerical grade percentage of 80.5%- 89.5%, which is quite a broad interval and closer to the grades of A and C. One of the advantages of using letter grades is that it is prevalently used among schools and educational institutions, and has been the norm in most grading systems used by instructors and students. However, the letter grading system has its flaws that make it problematic and an inaccurate and unreliable measure of student performance evaluation. Letter grades are an inaccurate form of grading since it is interval-based in grading, and there is an unfair distribution of equal grades to students who have different levels of performance and knowledge. For example, a student who gets a grade of 81% will acquire a B, similar to a student who gets a grade of 88%. It is obvious that the student with 81% of grade is lower in his or her performance at school than the one who got 89%, but they received an equal grade because their percentages fall into the range of grades for the letter grade B. Thus, the determined grade does not fully reflect the student's abilities and knowledge.

Another grading system that is commonly used in other educational systems is the numerical grading system, wherein percentages are used to measure student performance. This has an advantage of being more accurate than letter grades, but it is prone to becoming inconsistent, therefore, unreliable, since computing grades by percentages can be tedious and has a great margin of error when calculated. Because of the numerous calculations instructors have to make to compute the individual grades of the students, numerical grades present a problem of being costly and time-consuming. Also, since most people are already accustomed to the letter grading system, it might take time for students and instructors to use this kind of grading system. However, the numerical grades provide a clear gauge of student performance evaluation, since it states in determined numerical values what the student's grade is, and from this grade percentage will come a reflection of how well the student performed and what the student's standing is in the instructor's class (MCPS 2002).

The third kind of grading system is in narrative form. In this system, the letter and numerical grades are both utilized in determining the grade of a student. The narrative grading system uses numerical grades during the course of the semester or school year, but letter grades will be used in summing up the student's grade for the whole of semester/academic year. Thus, parents, students, and instructors will be more familiar with the progress of the student and will be able to understand the final grade or evaluation of the student's performance during the semester/academic year.

These forms of grading have their own advantages and disadvantages, as outlined in the preceding discussion. Although grading seems to be the most adequate method to measure and determine student performance in school, there are also critics of the grading system that seeks for its abolishment. One of these critics is Paul Goodman, author of an essay entitled, "A Proposal to Abolish Grading." In his essay, Goodman outlines his disagreement to grading as a measure of effective student performance because of the following reasons:

Grading encourages competition from peers and "bullying" of instructors to students promotes "cheating and plagiarizing";

Grades are irrelevant to future career, because it is not a good measure of student performance, knowledge, and skills; and Grading results to too impersonal student-teacher interaction, which causes students to perform poorly.

These outlined reasons are in some degree true of what is happening in the present educational system of the society, but these contentions cannot be generalized too quickly. It is true that increased pressure from peers and instructors to increase a student's grade can prompt the student to commit plagiarism, cheating, or any form of dishonesty, but the need to increase student's grade can also challenge and motivate a student to study harder and perform well in school, which is exactly what happens to well-motivated individuals. In the second contention, grades may be countered as an insufficient measure of student performance in school, but the grades reflect how the student was able to perform and use his knowledge and skills while in the school environment. Thus, to provide future employers a copy of the student's grades would be equivalent to providing them with a quick 'summary' of how well the student performed under the conditions and environment of educational institutions (which is a preparatory stage for a life full of pressure, time- and effort-demanding task -- the workplace). Finally, a small degree of teacher-student interaction may be required, but making teaching personal may bias an instructor's perception of his or her students, which will the result to subjective judgment of student performance, and will yield to an inaccurate measure or appraisal of how well the student performed during the semester/academic year.

Thus, with all the perspectives discussed about grading (for and against…

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