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Old 09-22-08, 01:46 PM   #1
phantomcow2
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Read editorial

I was asked to write a ~500 word editorial for school about a subject of interest to me and which directly pertains to the college (ie. nothing about international affairs; this is to go in the campus newspaper). I brought it to the paper editing service in the Library here, but I'm honestly not totally confident in the feedback I received.

Would anybody be willing to read my relatively short piece? If so, please let me know if there are any odd phrases or sentences or things which otherwise distract you. Other comments are welcome also.

I'll copy and paste it below:
Quote:
One try, that's all you get. One try to show how far you've come, how much you've learned, how competent you are. Does this sound right? It depends on the context. In the context of a liberal arts college, I believe it makes little -- if any -- sense. Yet, this is how the majority of colleges approach grading. When a student receives a "B" on some assignment, he or she will be inclined to put it behind them and move onward, forgoing that knowledge which the college would have liked to deliver. This lack of potential gain is what economists call a dead weight loss. Suppose a student receives an eighty-percent on an assignment. Presumably, this means that twenty-percent of what the student delivered was incorrect, or in some way failed to meet the criteria. Should the student learn the material at a later date, perhaps in context provided by another class discussion, he or she will not be "compensated" per se; the grade which was earmarked for the student's understanding at the time of assessment will no longer be an accurate representation of the academic achievement. A grade should not be so piece-meal in that it reflects how well a student demonstrated understanding the first time. Michael Phelps does not win a gold medal based on how quickly he learned the butterfly stroke; he wins the medal based on his final performance.
Gregory Mankiw, former chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Affairs, and current professor at Harvard University, authored a textbook: Principles of Economics. In this book, Mankiw argues that there are ten fundamental principles of economics, one of which states quite simply that people respond to incentives. Consideration of this principle is what I propose Allegheny uses to guide adoption of a more effective grading system. I propose that students have the option to complete multiple "retakes" of any sort of assessment or academic paper, each time for a successively higher grade. This likely sounds ridiculous -- barbaric, even; but again I ask you to consider the effect in the aggregate: After it took the student multiple tries, and the student finally received an "A" on some assignment, evidently the student learned all which was asked.
Highly reputable colleges, such as Hampshire College of Amherst Massachusetts and Sarah-Lawrence College, have embraced their own modern idea of schooling and completely omitted grades from their infrastructure, providing routine written progress reports for enrolled students. David Wagner, associate director of admissions at Hampshire, remarked that "the purpose of education should be to give quality feedback which students can learn from and make improvements based on; grades do not achieve this." Of course, Mr. Wagner was speaking in context of how most schools administer grades.
I, however, do not propose the removal of grades. I call upon the faculty of this college to reconsider what a grade is actually a representative of, and how to minimize the dead weight loss, based on the principles I have previously outlined. Allegheny College has a rich and lengthy history of tradition, but it also has a history of innovation. I believe this coincides nicely with the “promoting student’s intellectual development” portion of the official college mission.

FWI: The title of the article is called "piece-meal"

Thankyou to all who provide helpful comments.
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Old 09-22-08, 01:51 PM   #2
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I just realized that my copying and pasting into this browser window removed all paragraph breaks. I'll fix that.
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Old 09-22-08, 02:01 PM   #3
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On the Michael Phelps analogy, he wins gold if he performs at his highest level in that race.

If in the 2004 Olympics he swam a race in 50.4 seconds, winning bronze and in the 2008 Olympics he swims that same race in 49.8 seconds, and wins a gold, they do not go back and award him the gold for the 2004 as well.

Seems like that is what you want the academic institute to do here.

Just a thought.
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Old 09-22-08, 02:05 PM   #4
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Old 09-22-08, 02:15 PM   #5
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This could be very time consuming. You have only a finite amount of time to get a certain amount of material out. The professor could conceivably spend too much time redoing the re-dos. Going over old stuff rather than moving on.
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Old 09-22-08, 02:18 PM   #6
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Old 09-22-08, 02:20 PM   #7
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pc2

I liked your argument. Very well presented IMO. I would make this change though:

I, however, do not propose the removal of grades. I call upon the faculty of this college to reconsider what a grade is actually a representation of, and ...

or

I, however, do not propose the removal of grades. I call upon the faculty of this college to reconsider what a grade is actually representative of, and (look ma, no "a")
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Old 09-22-08, 02:25 PM   #8
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they're doing that in the TDSB now. Instead of your final yeah grade average, they're now trying to grade your entire high school marks to see if you were getting good grades through all your years.

I think they switched to this to see if you were consistent in your efforts.
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Old 09-22-08, 03:08 PM   #9
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This could be very time consuming. You have only a finite amount of time to get a certain amount of material out. The professor could conceivably spend too much time redoing the re-dos. Going over old stuff rather than moving on.
When you're in a small school such as mine, it shouldn't be too bad. Also, I got this idea from an English professor I had when I was at a larger state school...
Not everybody will choose to rewrite every assignment.
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Old 09-22-08, 03:17 PM   #10
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When you're in a small school such as mine, it shouldn't be too bad. Also, I got this idea from an English professor I had when I was at a larger state school...
Not everybody will choose to rewrite every assignment.
ok, preface the sentence that starts with: Highly reputable colleges, such as ...

with: Some, or Many, or Several.....
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Old 09-22-08, 03:31 PM   #11
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An interesting concept, do you want a critique of the proposal or the article?

While I believe the process you propose would be beneficial to some, especially to older students who sometimes grasp material a little slower than younger students (at least that is the excuse I use for my grades going down recently) I wonder if it would entail a broader revamping of the system.

If everyone were allowed to retake all exams, would it be necessary to have each exam modified before it was given again so that the exam wasn't simply passed by repetition of material? Or is it acceptable to be passed by mere repetition from review of the previous test. For example, should math problems have to be modified to exercise similar methods, but not the exact problems in order to ensure it wasn't passed by just robotically memorizing the earlier test?

In addition, areas such as academic probation may have to be revisited, as I believe it would be reasonable to expect everyone to get at least a 3.0 GPA if retaking every exam was part of the methodology.

Either that, or what about the fact that in order to keep the tests honorable, in order to make retaking them reasonable to the educational process, the tests may have to be harder? This seems reasonable, as it is the way it is usually done if an exam is given in a take home format.

After all, if a C is average, then the average student should only be able to maintain a C in most courses. We all know that this is already not the case, since the Universities won't even grant a degree unless a student has achieved a C average... so a C is actually the minimum acceptable grade, or passing grade. (So, what is a D again???)

Grade inflation has already happened, so what is your objective? To ensure that everybody graduate with an A average?

Admittedly, other than advancing to a graduate or post-graduate program, GPA is virtually useless except for a few specific career fields, but then again, this is an academic discussion.

But, other than the fact that I disagree with your thesis, I think for the limited space you have to present it, you did a fine job.

The one thing I would change. Your example, you use B. You make it sound like a B is a terrible thing. If you are going to show the evils of the current system, at least pick a grade that would be bad, like a failing grade. A B on a test does show an acceptable level of understanding of the material in an environment without grade inflation in place.
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