It’s Time To Revisit Grading

On April 1 NPR reported that Loyola Law School in Los Angeles is retroactively increasing all of its current students’ grades. That C+ from last year is now a B-. Everybody’s GPA just went up by 0.333. “For example, what previously was a B- would be a B, what previously was a B would be a B+, and so forth. All other academic standards based on grades, such as the probation and disqualification thresholds, are also adjusted upwards by the same magnitude. These changes are retroactive to include all grades that have been earned under the current grading system since it was adopted. This means that all grades already earned by current students will be changed. It also means that all grades going forward will be governed by the new curve. The effect of making the change retroactive will be to increase the GPA of all students by .333. The change will not alter relative class rank since the GPA of all students will be moved up by the same amount.”

The school says that it’s been grading on a harder curve than almost all the other law schools in California, so its students have been at an unfair disadvantage.

By “curving its grading system Loyola Law School is saying that education may be important not only because of whatever facts students learn, but grading is more important.

As one person commented, “Grading isn’t teaching, and testing isn’t learning. Professors don’t need grades. Students do, both to motivate them and to signal employers. Professors are being forced to impose a curve that did not match the actual performance of the students.”

If this weren’t so funny, it would be sad.  We are entering the generation of Lake Woebegon where all students are performing above average.  What do grades really indicate?  Do they reflect learning or are they simply a way of making students and parents and colleges feel better?  I believe that testing and ranking, while providing some benefits simply serve as a sorting system.  Possibly the best grading system would simply be “outstanding”, “passing” and “incomplete”.