Why Posters Lead to Grade Inflation

From here:

My principal happens to think that projects/posters are creative and a necessary part of the educational process. I did not fully understand the need for the projects, but set out to assign something that would involve research and actually learning something about the topic.

One group of children was assigned a project on the five themes of geography and the others were to do a project on explorers. The assignment was made the first day of school in a letter directed to parents. My directions were explicit and detailed.

Silly me! I actually thought that the projects or the posters were to be graded. Some of the children did a terrific job on their posters, while others clearly waited until the night before the assignment was due and just pasted anything on the paper and brought it to school. It took me many hours to grade the projects. I required students to do research for the projects. I wanted to make certain the posters were accurate and directions followed. Some students received 100 points for their effort and a few others received only 20 points. Almost all students received between 85 to 100 points.

Well, to my surprise I was not supposed to grade these posters! It is just expected that all children receive credit for these posters/projects! Not just, credit though! ONE HUNDRED POINTS! The purpose of the projects is to boost the grade of every student. It really does not matter how well the children do, just that they have attempted something. We cannot penalize a child that is not of the same ability as the brightest child and make him feel badly. It is just important that he brought something, anything to school. My principal told me she was not telling me how to grade, but I should call the parents and just apologize for my ignorance on grading procedures. She said the parents love it when you apologize to them. (I called parents, but did not apologize to them.)

I returned to my classroom and pulled the grades from previous years. Almost every child receives an A or a B for the cycle. I found only one D, six C’s and no F’s. I do not know how to inflate grades. Is it fair to give everyone an A or a B if they have not worked hard and earned it? How do I justify this act? Do I compromise my values and standards? I have never been expected to do this and I feel physically ill. More importantly, what if the kids that are smart and work really hard for their grades determine that everyone gets an A or B no matter the performance? What if they decide not to work for their grades either?

I feel certain if I do not play the game I will not be rehired next year or get a satisfactory evaluation. Of course, I do not know if I want to be rehired. I will be sending my resume to other school districts in the spring, but I fear they all follow the same rules and guidelines. I think what has really happened is that Mom has returned to work and feels guilty for not having the energy to help the children with school work. When the child brings home an unsatisfactory grade, she transfers that guilt back to the teacher. Every mother I spoke to about the project was a working mother. (I am one too, so I am not just knocking working mothers!) Every mother blamed me for her child’s poor performance. It was my fault that her child did not complete the project as directed.

I reported to my classes the next day that I was new to school procedures. I did not know that they should all receive 100 points on their project. I would change their grades to reflect the extra points. I also cancelled all other assigned projects. I cannot see the value of wasting valuable class time on the projects if everyone gets the same grade.

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