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THE Government Department is considering a plan to improve the way it grades students taking junior tutorial, but its proposal overlooks the fundamental problems in the grading system.
Presently half a student's grade in Gov 98 depends on hid Junior Essay, a, paper written during four days in Reading Period and evaluated by a committee of examiners unconnected with the tutorial program. Thinking that this four-day exercise too closely resembles a final exam, the department has suggested that students simply choose a paper they have written during the year for their tutor and submit that to the committee.
Relying on the grading committee, however, undermines the whole concept of tutorial education. Honors programs are designed to provide personal and continuous instruction for the concentrator. Their value comes from the regular interchange between tutor and student. As weekly dialogues, tutorials cannot be treated as narrowly directed courses which can be put together at the end of the term and distilled into a paper or a final examination. A single ten-page paper could never adequately represent a student's over-all record in tutorial; only the tutor could properly evaluate his student's year-long performance.
The department admits that it uses the essay not for educational reasons but for the narrow aim of achieving a wide grade distribution. Tutors generally give favorable reports of their students, and the committee reads the papers to decide whose grades should be cut down to a B. Even though all the papers might be outstanding, the committee would clamp down on most students and "equalize" thier grades. Scaling down grades ignores the fact that capable students in an honors program are highly motivated by the weekly pressure of a face-to-face meeting with their tutors and by knowing the importance of recommendations from their junior-year advisers for final honors and graduate schools. High grades could be expected, and there is no reason to believe that tutors--who are trusted to conduct and grade sections in departmental courses --are being too lenient. There is naturally some difference in standards, but the department's courses also cover a wide range, from well-known rigorous courses, for example, to a few well-known guts.
A few tutors want to avoid responsibility for grading because they fear that might prevent friendly relations with their students. But tutors are the only ones who can fairly give grades in tutorial. If they feel that grading is improper in this program, that is an argument for having tutorial ungraded, not for having someone on the outside do it.
Both History and Social Studies allow tutors to have change of the junior tutorials they conduct and to report grades for their students. For some reason, Government has set up a committee unfamiliar with a student's tutorial to judge whether he should receive a different grade then his tutor recommends, and to make that decision on the basis of a ten-page paper which could at best represent only a portion of his tutorial work. Giving responsibility to tutors would be a more complete remedy for the arbitrary grading in Gov 98 then the partial measure the department has proposed.
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