48. Grading on a Curve

Educators at the primary school level should be prohibited from grading students on a curve, while educators at secondary and high institutions should at least be encouraged not to use such grading methods. Instead, absolute grading systems should be used that are based upon an absolute mastery of the content.

Some of the benefits provided by curved grading (i.e., dividing students according to their performance relative to their peers) could just as easily and possibly more accurately be provided by making absolute class grades available on a list ranked from highest to lowest grades. At the same time, the inherent unfairness associated with basing grade cutoff points on relative performance rather than on an absolute mastery of the course would be eliminated.

If students know enough to pass a test, they should pass the test regardless of how many others passed the same test.

Sometimes tests could be too hard. If the test maker agrees that this may be a possibility, the test maker may decide to include, at their discretion, additional ‘extra point’ questions that students would have the option of answering and whose points would be valid only if the teacher finds that the entire class as a whole scored below a certain threshold. This way students could essentially purchase a kind of insurance in case the entire class scores poorly.

An alternate, but inferior, method would be to allow the instructor to shift the entire grading scale down 5 percentage points so that a 95% score would factored as a 100% score, and a 75% score would be factored as an 80%. The spread of the grading scale would not be changed, however, so that if an B could only have been achieved by scoring between 80% and 90% (a 10 point spread) under the original scale, an B would now be given for grades between 70% and 80% (again, a 10 point spread). Only for an A grade would the spread be increased from a 10-point spread (90%-100%) to a 15-point spread (85%-100%). This would be a little unfair, however, because a 100% score would lose some of its luster since an 95% score would now be equivalent.


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