the math of grading

Brian Barabe wrote:

If a student has five 95’s and one zero, his arithmetic average is 79. Many teachers would easily bump the grade up to a B. But why shouldn’t the zero simply be ignored in favor of saying the kid is doing very solid A work?

A kid who got four 95’s and one 100 and one zero only averages 80. A kid with three 95’s and two 100’s and one zero averages 88.

Oh, and a kid with 5 90’s and one zero averages 75. Here Wes’s quote about putting garbage through a computer somehow sanctifies it on the printout really is apropos. Is there some sort of strict father justice in averaging 5 90’s and one zero as 75%?”

Here, he was trying to make concrete the effect of averaging grades, esp when zeroes are given. But I want to focus on that last comment.

There are people who feel that the greater the injustice, the more willing should be the submission to Authority, b/c admitting to error is considered a sign of weakness and a weak authority figure is too scary to bear.

I have counseled students who felt outraged by a grade but believed they had to submit. Most of them did go on to take the issue to the teacher in question, usually with good results. There are those who see this as teacher harassment and others who see it as justice.

A story Brian told me:

a math teacher was chatting with Brian when a parent came in to ask about her daughter’s grade; it was a B, based on a missed test that was never made up. The mother spent half-an-hour trying to persuade the math teacher to at least look for the test b/c her daughter insisted she had taken the make-up and just had never pulled tricks like lying about such things.

The teacher was adamant; she got the grade she deserved. After the mother gave up and left, Brian looked at the piles all over the room and suggested the test might be in one of the piles. The teacher said no way, but as he did, he fingered one of the piles and….. pulled out the girl’s test.

Brian never knew if the teacher changed the grade.

Pat Barrett

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