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"Why Can’t Everyone Get A’s? Excellence is not a zero sum game." NYT op-ed

MWolfMWolf 1507 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/15/opinion/sunday/schools-testing-ranking.html

Interesting take, which differs from many of the opinions I have read here. The basic take of the article is that standardized tests are not being used to see whether students are learning or are prepared, but as a way to force ranking. The article is saying that standardized testing is not being used as a tool to ensure that all students succeed, but as a tool to ensure that some students will fail.

I do not know that I agree with it entirely, but the author makes some interesting points.
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Replies to: "Why Can’t Everyone Get A’s? Excellence is not a zero sum game." NYT op-ed

  • FlaParentFlaParent 92 replies20 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    The only way to judge anyone is against what others can do. If the average person was only 4 foot tall, a 5’10” person would be a giant.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 2956 replies39 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I would complain, too, compmom, if I had a teacher giving all A grades before the class began. At best the kids realize the grades were worthless and the teacher is patronizing them; at worst they thought they had mastered material and competence they didn't have. We don't lie to kids about their athletic ability-why would one do so about their academic achievements?
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1593 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 16
    "I know my comments aren't relevant here except to say that the real goal would be for people, both those who give then and those who get them, to understand what grades really are. As a measure of learning, and perhaps most importantly a measure of hard work, the inevitable sorting that results would at least be fair."

    "Finally, in many ways, grading is not fair. The kids who work hardest don't always get the best grades. Perhaps there is a way to include effort in grading."

    Interestingly my high school (not in the US) gave grades which were a combination of a letter (A to E) for achievement, and a number (1 to 5, 1 being best) for effort. So if you were top of the class but didn't try hard you would get an A2 or even A3, and if you tried really hard but weren't that good you would get a B1 or very occasionally a C1. The most common grades were A2, B2 and C3, while A1 was rare. (For those wondering what it meant for GPA, that wasn't calculated or relevant since only formal exams were important for college admissions, and grading was very strict by US standards, getting all As was almost unheard of, even for top students.)
    edited June 16
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  • yucca10yucca10 1261 replies37 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @Twoin18 I like this approach, but what criteria were used to grade effort?
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1593 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @yucca10 It was by teacher assessment. I would say it was mostly related to going above and beyond in homework (or not), although class contribution was part of it.

    Usually the effort only varied by 1 point from the achievement, a two point variation was unusual. So it was a signaling mechanism about whether you worked harder than average, about average, or below average compared to others with the same level of achievement.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78259 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    FlaParent wrote:
    The only way to judge anyone is against what others can do.

    Not necessarily. For example, consider that people at work or students in school may all be excellent, or all be poor.

    However, when it comes to competitive situations, such as seeking a new job or promotion at work, or admission to college, some sort of ranking is forced. Competitive situations are common.
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  • MarianMarian 13206 replies83 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 16
    There are learning situations where the focus is on the mastery of a body of content, and the goal is for everyone to succeed. Driver education is an example.

    And there are learning situations where it is known that the process is competitive and only some will succeed. The hundred or so alto sax players who learn and practice their audition music before trying out for the all-state honors band in my state know that only four will be chosen.

    Should academic courses be like driver ed, or should they be like preparing for all-state auditions? It's an interesting question.
    edited June 16
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  • mstompermstomper 1023 replies40 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    What about a situation where a student takes longer for things to "click" in a class. They have a C first quarter, but then something clicks and they end up on balance with the same level of mastery as the student who gets an A both quarter. I can see that student getting an A for the class.
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  • sorghumsorghum 3502 replies110 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^^Most people can get a driving license, but few are good drivers. A potential racing driver is at a whole different level of performance (and capability).

    I think most HS and college exams are far too easy, there is the expectation that anyone diligent can get 93% or whatever and an A. I think the full scale of 0 to 100 should be earned.
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  • OhiBroOhiBro 308 replies6 threadsRegistered User Member
    Can’t access the NYT article, so will assume OP summarized accurately:
    The article is saying that standardized testing is not being used as a tool to ensure that all students succeed, but as a tool to ensure that some students will fail.

    Yes! And when schools celebrate those that do well on the tests? Isn’t that just shaming those that didn’t?
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  • gouf78gouf78 7787 replies23 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @OhiBro — I read it as some people when looking at proficiency scores want to raise them to the point where some fail after scores go up or everyone earns a decent passing grade. Like taking a drivers test everyone passes and they change the standard to add a very difficult obstacle course (which they should if you drive I-4).
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  • FallGirlFallGirl 8045 replies27 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^ Absolutely agree with @sylvan8798. The grading is based on material learned. The reality is that some students will learn easily and some will have a more difficult time. That's the way life is.

    In addition, how does one determine how hard one worked? Was it the student who wasted time whining and complaining about how much work a class was? Or the student who simply spent his/her time quietly working and got it done?
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78259 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Marian wrote:
    Should academic courses be like driver ed, or should they be like preparing for all-state auditions? It's an interesting question.

    It is both. Those who just want to graduate high school can do so passing (C and D grades) with minimal standards. Those auditioning for admission to colleges' commonly mentioned on these forums must join in the competition for A grades, top test scores, additional top level achievements, getting to know teachers for recommendations, etc.
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  • privatebankerprivatebanker 5277 replies77 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 16
    No one worked harder than Rudy. He played in one game, for one play.

    Its ok. Can’t remember the name of anyone else on the team. His is ubiquitous.

    The hard work pays off differently than the short term results. And outcomes are not possible to manage. Only inputs.
    edited June 16
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