Grading Kids is Not Grading Eggs
Growing up on the family farm, one of the jobs I had was grading eggs. It was a rather tedious job with a lot of repetition. Eggs were graded based upon their size and color. Large eggs went into the Grade A boxes, medium size eggs went into the medium size boxes and so on. The egg grader weighed each egg which meant there was no possibility of making a mistake.
When I left the farm and became a teacher I was again asked to grade, this time children. I quickly learned that it was a very complicated task. Unlike eggs, which are all the same except for color and size I immediately realized that children were much more diverse.
Educators have wrestled with how to grade children fairly and accurately for decades. Over time there have been many different approaches. One example that stands out for me was the era of the “Bell Curve”. During this time period children were graded by assigning them to a grading group, either A, B, C, D, or F. The major premise was if there were 5 children with the grade of A there must be 5 children with the grade of F. This would occur even if all students scored 85% or higher. If this occured during egg grading some of the large eggs would have to be placed in the small or medium size container. If I did this my Dad would be very unhappy.
I do not believe that today’s schools have solved the problem of grading students. A simple example: in elementary schools, during spelling class, students are assigned a list of twenty spelling words to learn for the week. On the pretest, Susan can spell 18 of the 20 words correctly while Herbie spells 3 of the 20 words correctly. On the final test Susan spells 20 of the 20 words correctly while Herbie spells 10 of the 20 words correctly. Susan is rewarded with and A and Herbie is rewarded with an F ( only 50% correct). This is important– who learned the most but got rewarded the least? The answer is obvious but troubling. The ramifications probably will be, over time, Herbie will give up because a grade of F means he has failed, especially if he has worked to his full potential.
Grading eggs is simple, however grading children is one of the most difficult things that educators are asked to do. Educators must develop a grading system that does not discourage children but rewards children for what they have learned.
More to come in future postings. Thanks for reading and thinking about this.
Happy Trails to You–Herb