Do you think that grades are that way now?
Grades from some schools are completely disregarded (that is, not taking seriously as indications of learning). Lower grades can often be more highly regarded, if accompanied by other evidence of actual learning and achievement. There is substantial controversy about how much consideration of grades adds to standardized test scores as an estimate of which students are best prepared for university studies,
but it is worth noticing that all of the most selective and sought-after universities in the United States continue to use criteria other than grades to select students, even after they look at where the grades come from before deciding what the grades mean.
I would bet differently, having checked the evidence.
The most disadvantageous position to be in, in United States college admission, is to have little money. Low-ability, high-income college applicants fare much better in the application process (they end up with more and better choices of colleges) than high-ability, low-income students.
P.S. The submitted article, contrary to the HN submission title, refers only to grade averages at college, but I think there is also considerable evidence, for which I have fewer convenient citations,
that higher-income, lower-ability high school students tend to enjoy better grades than their lower-income, higher-ability classmates. Teachers respond to signs of wealth.
Moreover, those rewards mostly go to kids from the richest families at present, without genuine regard for "work ethic" or "performance" or whatever else grades are said to reward.
What would be evidence for that statement, in view of the parent comment to yours that disagrees with that conclusion? Where would one look for research on this issue?
One old book that I read back in high school days
suggested that grades correlate less well with ability (or any other meaningful characteristic of students) than supposed by the teachers who give grades to students. I'd love to hear about current research on this issue.
That book makes the excellent point that EVERYTHING about grades is arbitrary. Having a uniform system of accumulating scores on class work to set a course grade, as the author of the submitted article suggests, leaves a lot of important improvements undone. How does any outside observer know whether, for example, Podunk High School or Elite Prep Academy has a chemistry class that really covers the fundamental principles of secondary-education-level chemistry? How does an outside observer know whether an English teacher grades mostly on the basis of thoughtful argumentation and carefully chosen content, or on neatness and spelling only?
Any reform of school grading will be hard put to eliminate the role of standardized testing for precisely this reason. Harvard's dean of admission recently commented on this:
"Q: You recently lead a high-profile commission that recommended de-emphasizing the SAT and ACT from admission requirements. A number of colleges have already made the tests optional. Do you see this ever happening at Harvard?
"A: We do not foresee a time that Harvard would be test optional. Only a few years ago we were receiving applications from about 5,000 high schools each year and now the number has grown to over 8,000. We need some common yardsticks that enable us to gauge in a rough way what is being learned in an ever-increasing and diverse high school context, not to mention the increasing number of students who are home-schooled.
"We continue to believe that the College Board's Subject Tests, along with either the SAT or ACT with the writing tests, allow students the best opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned thus far. Advanced placement and international baccalaureate results are also helpful."
Fresh book recommendations delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday.