Does Standards-Based Grading Hurt Students’ College Chances?
In this article in School Administrator, Thomas Buckmiller and Randal Peters (Drake University) address the concern voiced by some parents that students in schools using innovative grading practices won’t get fair and equitable consideration from selective colleges. Buckmiller and Peters interviewed admissions officers at two large state universities, one midsized state university, and one midsized private university (all in the Midwest) and came away with the following insights:
• Letter grades and transcripts based on standards are acceptable, even preferable. For years, universities have been frustrated with high schools’ grade inflation, inaccurate portrayals of student performance, grades that mush together academic and behavioral information, and the resulting need to provide remediation to significant numbers of admitted students. There’s real appreciation for high schools that clearly delineate standards and distinguish between different strands of information on student achievement and conduct. The one caveat is that admissions officers prefer letter grades to any other grading metric.
• Colleges are working to ensure equitable treatment for students with non-traditional grades. They’re already dealing with home-schooled students and an increasing number of students without class rankings. As more applicants submit non-traditional grades, colleges will adjust their formulas and try to be fair. They’ll also give more weight to standardized test scores with these students. High schools’ college counselors are key middlepeople in making sure colleges understand the grades and other information being submitted.
• For college admissions personnel, efficiency and accuracy are key. They’re handling thousands of applications with limited staff and need concise, objective information that will tell them if each applicant can make it in their college. “The worst thing we can do,” said one official, “is admit them when they don’t have the skills to be successful. It’s on our shoulders when they’re… dropping out and walking away with debt.” What’s most helpful is accurate, non-inflated information on achievement and, separately, objective information on students’ attendance, work ethic, and perseverance.
One high-school administrator summed it up well in a statement to students: “You will get into college, but that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to make sure you get through college.”
“Getting a Fair Shot?” by Thomas Buckmiller and Randal Peters in School Administrator, February 2018 (Vol. 75, #2, p. 22-25),
http://my.aasa.org/AASA/Resources/SAMag/2018/Feb18/Buckmiller.aspx; Buckmiller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.