It can be said that the biggest issue facing education today is the openness and ambiguity in the assessment of student ability. This concept can be seen portrayed in various forms of media.
For example, the case study report Grade Inflation and Teaching: What Should Teachers do in a World of Entitlement states that “there’s pressure on teachers to inflate grades…”. This means that it is more likely for teachers to exploit the ambiguity behind assessing student ability and artificially increase grades, even if students are not at that level. For example, one of the teacher’s testimonies writes “Despite all of my trying and his trying, he was still failing… but I was supposed to pass him anyway” (Levinson, 1; par. 7), implying that the final decision on whether or not a student passes is a decision made by the teacher themselves, and not as a result of the quality of work and ability a student has.
This case study also mentions that teachers must contend with parents, debating the marks a student receives, and them implies that some teachers don’t have the perseverance or time to justify the grades they gave. This gives teachers another reason to give students marks they don’t deserve so that they can spend time away from debating with students and parents. Also, other teacher testimonies describe the process required to fail a student, and how it is easier to just give failing students a D instead.
Similarly, in CBC Radio’s article, “It was a joke”: Students describe lax standards, easy high marks at private schools known as “credit mills”, it was highlighted that certain private schools will just “give out” easy, high grades to students who may or may not deserve them just because students have the mindset of “we’re paying you, right?”
Some may argue that it is because of student and parent entitlement that causes teachers to artificially increase grades. While that may be part of the problem, it isn’t the whole story. If this system was not as ambiguous and had stricter requirements, it would not be able to be used and abused in this way by teachers to misrepresent student ability.
In the film The Emperor’s Club, directed by Michael Hoffman, there is a scene highlighting this concept. While Mr. Hundert, a teacher, and the movie’s protagonist, is marking the essays of his students, he decides to increase the grade of one of the students whom he believes shows promise. We, the audience, see that Mr. Hundert only increases this mark grade after discovering that the student’s unmodified final score would not qualify for a contest. As a direct result of this, another student unfairly lost his spot in the contest, because someone else got a mark that they did not necessarily deserve, taking away an opportunity for that student. The reason that this was able to occur is due to the ambiguity behind the assessment of student ability and a teacher’s motivation to exploit this system.
Moreover, in the aforementioned CBC radio article, a former student at a private school student stated that “They would just give you the mark for free” This again shows the flaws of an assessment system without any assessment guidelines; in some cases, teachers will completely disregard actual student ability.
All in all, the allowance of inconsistency and openness behind the assessment of student ability is the largest issue in today’s education. It is the root of many other problems, such as the rise of grade inflation and the spread of unearned marks. Without a change in the near future, these problems plaguing the education system will only worsen.
- Hoffman, Michael, Director. The Emperor’s Club. Universal Pictures, 2002. Levinson, Meira, and Ilana Finefter. Grade Inflation and Teaching: What Should Teachers do in a World of Entitlement? http://www.justiceinschools.org/files/playpen/files/grade_inflation_short_mll_rewrite_v2.doc.
- Nielsen, Robert. “The Closing of the (North) American Mind.” Echoes 12: Fiction, Media, and Non-fiction, edited by Francine Artichuck, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 325-330.
- Ore, Jonathan. “’It was a joke’: Students describe lax standards, easy high marks at private schools known as ‘credit mills’.” CBC Radio, Julia Pagel, Naama Weingarten, Acey Rowe, 28 January 2020.
Quintana, Leroy V. “Legacy II.” Legacy II, Docushare, docushare.everett.k12.wa.us/docushare/dsweb/Get/Rendition-339665/index.htm.
- Robinson, Sir Ken. “Changing Education Paradigms.” Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson, CFPS Courseweb, 1 June 2008, www.cfpscourseweb.com/pluginfile.php/1099/block_html/content/RSA Ken Robinson Lecture – transcript.pdf.