Thursday, February 19, 2009

Students: We Worked Hard, Gives Us Our A

Okay, seriously?

rof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.

“Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement.

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.


Jason Greenwood, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland echoed that view.

“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”

Sarah Kinn, a junior English major at the University of Vermont, agreed, saying, “I feel that if I do all of the readings and attend class regularly that I should be able to achieve a grade of at least a B.”

I'm sure right-wingers out there will blame this on liberals who want to give every kid at field day a ribbon just for completing their race, but that can't be the only explanation; I got a ribbon at field day for completing my race back in 5th grade, but never left school with the impression that I was entitled to a high grade because I did a lot of work. This attitude seems especially strange to me, having just completed law school, where no one argues that because they read all the cases, showed up to class and wrote 2,000 words for their answer to an essay question, they deserve a high grade.

Now, and this is completely baseless speculation but I'm only a blogger so it's okay, I think what might be going on here is that pressure on public schools to actually get kids to graduate, leads to a willingness on their part to reward students simply for trying hard, as otherwise they'd be failing more kids than they (or the state or federal government) are comfortable with. And that this is probably the result of a focus on statistical results that isn't accompanied by a focus on what the kids are actually learning. I'd certainly be interested in the reaction of education bloggers and pundits to the story, to see if there's any basis for my opinion.

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