I got to thinking about this while reading the “suing for an A+” thread in the Pit.
When I was in grade 5, we were going over test results. I noticed that Mrs. S. had given me credit for an incorrect answer, and pointed this out to her. “Oh!” she chirped. “You’re right! Well, I’ll take off the points for that!” (She hadn’t made the same mistake on every test, just mine.)
The following year, Mr. R. did the same thing with a classmate. After determining that this mistake was also exclusive to her exam, not an error across the board, he simply handed the test back. Noticing her uncertainty, he smiled and said, “You thought I would be like Mrs. S. No sweat; it was my mistake. You don’t lose points!”
I’m not sure which one of them I think was right. I mean, my classmate and I did both get the answer wrong, and didn’t deserve points, but I think Mr. R. deserves a few points himself for admitting that it was his responsibility to review accurately.
I should add that our grading system was draconian, or at least we thought so: As were 93 and above; Bs were 85-92, and Cs were 75-84. Below that, rack and thumbscrew. Okay, not really, but the rest is true. Mrs. S.'s decision bumped me from an A to a B, which I could have accepted if it had been given outright. As it was, I kicked myself for my Brady Bunch honesty, and vowed never again to point out any error in my favor.
So what do you guys do in this situation? (Assuming it happens at all! ;))
Your not testing the teachers grading ability, your testing the students knowledge of the subject. If the answer is wrong but marked correct the score should be reduced when the error is discovered.
This reminds me of what happened in my high school physics class, there was one problem that everyone in the class got wrong (there were only eight of us). It was a word problem and it turns out that the way it was worded led us to solve the problem in a different way than the teacher intended. In this case we all ended up getting credit for the problem since it was the teacher than made the mistake.
If it was a genuine grading error, I would want to know about it. However, if I were to take the points away, that would only teach the lesson of “keep your mouth shut.” That’s a somewhat useful lesson, but it doesn’t really help either of us.
I would tell my students in advance to let me know, but that I would not reduce their grades. This way, I know what material they still are not getting, and I keep track of myself. If I’m doing this too often, I need to be aware of it.
I agree with the point that it’s not the teacher’s grading skills that are being tested, but it’ll only take one incident of having a student’s grade retroactively reduced for the word to go around that you should clam up when you see an error. Then we’re back at square one, except that I, the teacher, don’t know I made a mistake.
My science teachers grading computer used to give me extra marks on my Unit Exams. I ended up with 104% once. By the time the test were handed back he had already recorded the marks so I was allowed to keep them. The first couple times I figured he was testing my honesty but after a while it got ridiculous. Personally I think one or two marks extra on a test isn’t really a big deal. The teacher can use his/her discretion on whether the student keeps the marks or not.
I understand what you’re saying. But I wasn’t concerned quite so much with the points as the fact that Mr. R’s action went a long way with all of us.
This was a very insular school district, in a rural area. Although it was the '70s and early '80s when I attended, the faculty and school board were still stuck in the '50s. Or even, as I sometimes thought, in the days of the little red schoolhouse and the schoolmaster/mistress with the rod.
They didn’t do corporal punishment, but they did exert absolute power over us. Mrs. S. deducted conduct points for disobeying any of a catalogue of rules, such as the one forbidding walking along the horizontal rows of desks. Or saying “here” instead of “present”. Somehow she found time to teach, between all the ritual and ceremony. Mrs. G. used to have screaming fits. Once she flung all of a kid’s stuff off his desk. Some of it hit another kid. Another time, a third student wouldn’t down the lid of his desk while she was going off on him. She stormed over and slammed the lid repeatedly. I don’t think she was trying to get his hand or anything, but she shouldn’t have done it at all.
Mr. C. once knocked my quarterly grade down from a C to a D because I didn’t close my book fast enough when he called the class to order. This was in the middle school, where they had this charming system. Grades stayed “open” for the two weeks between the time they were finalized and the time the report cards were distributed. During that limbo period, grades could be changed at any time, for any reason. Any reason that was valid at all times, of course. But why not take the points off the upcoming quarter, instead of reducing the grade that’s already been earned? I know how it sounds to say I “earned” a C, but I did. I was pulling myself out of a tailspin, and I put everything I had into not getting a D, at least. I was proud of the C…for a few days. Then I ended up with the D after all, just because my response time was slow.
So my point in all of this is that Mr. R. was one of the few who didn’t see us as rabble. In this context, I think he did the right thing. Overall, he was a tough grader, but he was able to motivate us. I remember the “One-problem quiz: you get an A or an F”. (I got an A.) And furthermore, he didn’t have discipline problems with us. For some odd reason.
Flexible and reasonable. Just like I was telling about.
In my high school (way back before I graduated in the good ol’ year 2000…), if the teacher gave you credit for an incorrect answer, then your grade wasn’t reduced for it. I doubt there was an official school policy for it, that’s just the way all the teachers did it. It was the teacher’s responsibility to correct the tests right, if they didn’t, their fault. Yeah, it’s a little off to give credit even when they got the answer wrong, but I agree with Legomancer, if you take away the points, all you’re doing is penalizing the kid for honesty, and next time he’s just not going to tell you and you won’t know you messed up. Let the kid keep the points, and he won’t be afraid to let you know when you messed up, so you won’t make the same mistake again. Also lets the kid know that the teacher isn’t afraid to take responsibility for his/her errors.
And Rilch – you got an A with a 93? Pft. Our As were anything over a 95. Bs were 85-94, Cs 70-85, less than a 70 and you flunked. Of course, my parents, in their cash-for-grades pay scheme (I think it was 3 bucks for an A, 2 for a B, 1 for a C.), were totally awesome and just counted anything above a 90 as an A anyways.
For the sake of argument, suppose that the teacher makes one minor error in marking every other paper. Then when you read them over everyone points out down-errors, and honest people no-one points out up-errors. Hoenest people, on average, do worse. I suppose that’s life.
I’ve no suggestions on how to do it better; sometimes no corrections are accepted but that feels just as bad.
In all honesty, there is so much subjectivity about grades that a point or two on a single assignment (or a point or two on every single assignment, frankly) is meaningless. Grades are not rocket science, and they present only a rough estimate of how well a student is doing. That’s not to say that they aren’t useful: they are. But if the goal of a grade is to accurately reflect the student’s achievment, there’s no more point in worring about a point or two than there is in worrying about whether or not you are wearing your earings when you get on your bathroom scale. That being the case, I prefer to award honesty.
For reasons too complicated to go into, I was just looking at my old report cards. I mentioned upthread that a teacher once knocked my grade down a letter for a trivial offense. Turns out, he ultimately changed it back.
I don’t know why I don’t remember the circumstances that led to his reinstating the “true” grade. But there it is, with his initials next to it!
Everything else I said in this thread stands, though.