Balancing the Grading Scale

By Denebola
Published: November 2008

By Antoine Guillaume

When a teacher passes back a test, one of the first things that students wonder is whether or not it is scaled. They usually think, “I studied for this test so much, I really should get a good grade. The truth is, that is not always so. Students may work as hard as they possibly can, but the A taunting them in the distance is just not getting any closer.

Many may feel that good grades are the only products of hard work, but one thing remains true: when you work hard, you learn. Considering how difficult getting into a good college has become, however, learning is just sometimes not enough.

“Teachers’ standards are sometimes set too high and if we are unable to reach that level, we are not able to get the 100 percent we are aiming for, sophomore Amy Chow said. If students do not receive a B or an A in a class, they then believe that the grades were unfair because of the high standards set for them. Scaling grades does not always fix the problem but it can help. “Scaling is a good way to ensure that credit is awarded to those who deserve it, senior Hannah Sieber said.

People who work hard would often get a better grade if the test were scaled. There is, however, another side to the issue. “If a student puts in the effort for a B+, it shouldn’t be scaled to an A, sophomore Michelle Dearolf said. Should a hard-working student who receives the same grade as a less diligent student actually receive a better overall grade?

Effort, however, is not something that can be easily scored; students may appear dazed in class but put in more than enough effort at home. Teachers have no way of distinguishing between a student who puts in as much effort as possible, and a student who does not put in.

It has been suggested that teachers look at their grading methods to see whether scaling is the best approach. “If scaling is constantly needed then perhaps it is a reflection of the teacher, or the caliber of the tests, and that should be adjusted, Sieber said. A teacher should be aware of whether or not their tests are fairly compiled based on the performance of the whole class.

If no As are awarded, then it is more a reflection of the teacher than of the students.

“I also think that teachers are too apt to scale by points, which throws off the grades, instead of using a traditional bell curve [where a set number of students receive As, Bs and Cs], Sieber said. Artificially pushing up grades is something that most people oppose’€it is not fair to have one class get all As, while another class of the same level gets mostly Bs.

Teachers should work together to accurately assess students, rather than resort to scaling. If all teachers fairly assess their students, then the need for scaling becomes unnecessary. The students, however, also have responsibilities and should always put the effort into the classes that they take.

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