‘Minimum 50’ Grading Policies

USA Today story on “minimum 50” grading policies, whereby any test score lower than 50 is rounded up to 50:

Their argument: Other letter grades — A, B, C and D — are broken down in increments of 10 from 60 to 100, but there is a 59-point spread between D and F, a gap that can often make it mathematically impossible for some failing students to ever catch up.

“It’s a classic mathematical dilemma: that the students have a six times greater chance of getting an F,” says Douglas Reeves, founder of The Leadership and Learning Center, a Colorado-based educational think tank who has written on the topic. “The statistical tweak of saying the F is now 50 instead of zero is a tiny part of how we can have better grading practices to encourage student performance.”

This is so profoundly stupid it’s hard to believe it isn’t from The Onion. That F covers 0-59 doesn’t make it six times more likely that a student will get an F than any other grade, unless test scores are based on random numbers rather than actual performance.

Update: Clearly, when you’re talking about what to do with grades lower than 50, you’re dealing with students who need help. Maybe this “minimum 50” policy is a good way to do that; I don’t know. What I’m saying is stupid is this Reeves fellow’s argument about it being a “classic mathematical dilemma”.

Monday, 19 May 2008