Grades and ethics

Jane Robbins at Inside Higher Ed asks,  Is Grade Integrity a Fairness Issue? 

“It seems that when we stop looking at our own (internal) interests for raising grades [getting better evaluations, making our students look good to employers, avoiding fights with parents and grade appeals from students] it becomes harder to justify grade inflation because the benefits to us become a cost to others. If we lower the bar so that our students are in a more competitive position, does that make it unfair to those who earned the higher grades, or who went to schools that maintain higher standards? To employers who can no longer rely on us for an authentic—fair—representation of relative student achievement? To funders or policymakers who want graduates not merely in name? To students who will be left with an unrealistic sense of accomplishment, an arrogant sense of entitlement, or both, which may be a barrier to them in the future? To faculty themselves, who may feel coerced by the pressures to be lenient?”

I agree with her.  I also have to say that it’s hard to uphold fair grading where every institutional incentive is designed to push you to grade leniently.   These incentives include student evaluations, rewards for spending time on research rather than teaching and grading, hectoring calls from the Student Retention Office when one of their charges falls behind in your class, wanting to give a student a passing grade just so you don’t have to see him again in your class, and not wanting to get run over in the parking lot by that student who believes that his sheer genius entitles him to an A.

I try to grade fairly, and I have also borne the costs of doing this (and I am not kidding about that getting run down in the parking lot thing).

What do you think? When do you give up and bump the grade up? When do you hold firm?

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