Another question I am hearing often from callers to the local radio shows goes something like this:
Universities don’t put up with late or missing assignments, why should high schools?
It’s a great question, and one worth exploring. It’s largely true that post-secondary institutions don’t accept late work, but they are becoming more flexible here. I know this because I took an undergraduate course last winter, and the professor was far more flexible in his grading practices than I remember from 20 years ago.
Approximately 18% of our students go on to University. That’s it. These students are typically bright and capable of functioning in whatever system of rules is in place. They will not be harmed if we show them some flexibility in their high school careers.
Approximately 30% of our students drop out and fail to complete high school. These students will be far better prepared for adult life and the world of work if we show them some flexibility and compassion in grading and manage to keep them in school longer. By keeping them in school and making them meet their obligations, they will have a better chance of becoming productive adults.
I also wonder why we would hold up University assessment as a model. It’s a competitive system of grading. Everybody can’t get an A, even if they all master the material. It’s curved. If the whole class gets over 80% on an exam, the bottom few will still fail. This is the model some people are holding up as sound assessment?
This professor was asked to resign from the University of Alberta, because he wouldn’t arbitrarily lower the grades of some of his students who had demonstrated mastery of the material. That’s not a model I want to emulate.