Excellence in Equity: California Eyes Obliterating 'Bias' by Getting Rid of Grades

seb_ra/iStock/Getty Images Plus

In California, they’re trying to rid America of its obliterative bias.

One way: Stop giving grades in college.

As seen in a March 16th memo posted online, the president of the state’s public university system asked the Academic and Student Affairs Committee to consider a big change.

In some cases, the old ways have been alright — particularly grading on a curve — but ultimate equity trumps all:

The University of California is exploring innovations in instructional delivery, assessment, and grading to improve learning outcomes, promote academic integrity, and advance educational equity. Traditional grading practices, such as averaging grades across assignments or grading on a curve, have merit in some cases but there may be more effective options for advancing achievement and educational equity. UC campuses are engaged in a variety of initiatives to reexamine assessment and grading practices, some of which are illustrated in this written item.

The president references “learning outcomes,” but if I understand correctly, at issue is reward rather than retention — grades, after all, reflect the latter.

Prior presentations to the Board of Regents have described ongoing UC efforts to assess, innovate, and adapt instructional methods to support learning outcomes. The University is following the same approach in evaluating assessment and grading methods to improve learning outcomes, promote academic integrity, and advance educational equity.

Regarding an educational revamp, California’s been on the move.

In March, the public secondary ed system permanently abandoned standardized testing in admissions evaluation. An official line asserted such tests didn’t predict how students would perform on regular assignments and tests once in college.

From CSU acting Chancellor Steve Relyea:

“[W]e are eliminating our reliance on the high-stress, high-stakes test that has shown negligible benefit and providing our applicants with greater opportunities to demonstrate their drive, talents and potential for college success.”

At the time, I posed thusly:

If someone has “drive, talents and potential for college success,” they’d presumably do well on (standardized) tests.

I could well be wrong in my assumption, but it may soon be a non-issue. Furthermore, if the system will no longer require anyone to make good grades, then it was absolutely right in nixing standardized scores.

And to be sure, the West Coast isn’t alone in its exploration:

Professor Razes the Evil of Writing Rules, Whacks White Supremacy by Gonging Grades

University Professor Goes the Route of ‘Ungrading’ — in Math

Excellence Awaits: Professors Make Their Case for Ending Grades

Primary education’s taking part as well:

Virginia School District Targets Inequity by Shooting at Grades and Deadlines

Oregon’s Education Dept. Takes a Stand Against Standards — Racism, to the Layperson

In Order to Attack ‘Systemic Racism,’ a School Eliminates Failure and Time Constraints

Back to California, the president’s letter offered “key tips” for superior schooling. A few:

  • Think of assessment as opportunities for students to learn with equity and inclusion as the foundation to create effective learning spaces for all students.
  • Provide opportunities for and encourage collaborative work.
  • Allow (or require) students to consult many sources to answer questions, as we do in the real world.

And for those instructors keen on less work:

  • Consider the grading labor for each assessment.

Courtesy of the missive’s conclusion:

Traditional assessment and grading practices may perpetuate bias and inequities and the University of California is engaged in a number of efforts to advance initiatives that promote grading with equity, including those that improve and reward mastery of subject matter in a course. … [U]C’s efforts and partnerships with other intersegmental and peer institutions will advance research and identify promising practices that can continue to improve student outcomes and educational equity.

Maybe it’ll end up mimicking MIT:

In 2020–21, [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] implemented a new “Flexible Pass/No Record” grading policy1 for entering first-year undergraduates. This policy allowed first-year students the option to designate up to 48 units to be graded on a pass/no record basis. Under this policy, students needed to complete the subject and receive a grade. The student then had the option to keep the grade or request that it be converted to a pass/no record. Letter grades of A, B, or C were pass and D or F were no record. … Initial feedback was the new policy had been well-received by students, with 78 percent feeling “very positive” about this new grading policy.

MIT, incidentally, also eliminated standardized testing. But then:

The world is changing. In the past, an iconic nightmare was the scenario of showing up for school to take a test for which one hadn’t studied.

A new generation will have night sweats over arriving to school to find there are no safe spaces.

If they’re California Dreamin’, at least they may be safe from getting a bad grade.

-ALEX

 

See more content from me:

Georgia Puts the Kibosh on Universities’ Anti-Liberty ‘Free Speech Zones’

Harvard Apologizes for Slavery, Offers $100 Million to Make It Better

‘Public Health Crisis’: Diversity and Inclusion Director Decries the Racism That Causes Alcohol Consumption

Find all my RedState work here.

Thank you for reading! Please sound off in the Comments section below.