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Opportunistic grade inflation?

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I still think the most equitable solution was a mandatory P/F system. Someone on another thread posted U of T's explanation, which makes the most sense to me: "On balance, only the general credit/no credit scheme avoids problematic evaluative distinctions at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting students in highly differentiated ways that are independent of academic commitment and ability."

I see the concern about more competitive students, but some of my classmates were really affected by the pandemic and it shows in their grades (based on what they've told me - we don't talk specifics really). Given the inevitable inference that will be drawn from elected Ps in relation to other grades, it hardly seems fair. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, BingBongtheArcher said:

I still think the most equitable solution was a mandatory P/F system. Someone on another thread posted U of T's explanation, which makes the most sense to me: "On balance, only the general credit/no credit scheme avoids problematic evaluative distinctions at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting students in highly differentiated ways that are independent of academic commitment and ability."

I see the concern about more competitive students, but some of my classmates were really affected by the pandemic and it shows in their grades (based on what they've told me - we don't talk specifics really). Given the inevitable inference that will be drawn from elected Ps in relation to other grades, it hardly seems fair. 

It absolutely is the most equitable solution. Not having grades would always be the most equitable solution, pandemic or not – med school's pass/fail system is undoubtedly more equitable than law school's curve. 

But note that equity with grades is not a "rising tides lifts all boats" situation. When you make everyone indistinguishable by their grades, distinctions will be drawn based on other factors. In medical school, it's how well people play the game with their placements and signalling interest in certain fields. People who know how the game works, such as those with parents or family friends who are doctors, are at a distinct advantage. 

The same will be true for law students, particularly at schools where first year is heavily weighted towards full-year courses. If employers have fewer grades to work with, expect: (i) those grades to be given more relative weight, and (ii) employers to look to other factors to fill in the gaps.

As someone who earned all of my opportunities through getting good grades, I would be incredibly upset to have the focus shifted to other factors. And to be quite frank, it's rather unlikely I would have benefited from others doing poorly due to the pandemic anyways. The benefit would have been concentrated in the B-range students who were able to get B+s or the B+ students who were able to As.

So yeah, as a 3L with nothing to lose it was wonderful to spend 20 minutes finding summaries and a few hours writing exams at home with no other work necessary. But if this had happened to me in 1L, I would be furious.

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
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11 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

It absolutely is the most equitable solution. Not having grades would always be the most equitable solution, pandemic or not – med school's pass/fail system is undoubtedly more equitable than law school's curve. 

But note that equity with grades is not a "rising tides lifts all boats" situation. When you make everyone indistinguishable by their grades, distinctions will be drawn based on other factors. In medical school, it's how well people play the game with their placements and signalling interest in certain fields. People who know how the game works, such as those with parents or family friends who are doctors, are at a distinct advantage. 

The same will be true for law students, particularly at schools where first year is heavily weighted towards full-year courses. If employers have fewer grades to work with, expect: (i) those grades to be given more relative weight, and (ii) employers to look to other factors to fill in the gaps.

As someone who earned all of my opportunities through getting good grades, I would be incredibly upset to have the focus shifted to other factors. And to be quite frank, it's rather unlikely I would have benefited from others doing poorly due to the pandemic anyways. The benefit would have been concentrated in the B-range students who were able to get B+s or the B+ students who were able to As.

So yeah, as a 3L with nothing to lose it was wonderful to spend 20 minutes finding summaries and a few hours writing exams at home with no other work necessary. But if this had happened to me in 1L, I would be furious.

I don't necessarily disagree with any of this, especially your point about a lack of grades shifting towards a system where personal connections are weighted more heavily. No model is going to totally mitigate the effects of the pandemic and mine might (and likely would) hurt A students without those connections. 

I would add though, that the pandemic has not affected people equally and people with pre-existing disadvantage are more likely to have had their lives disrupted by this thing. I take it that ultimately there is no evaluative model that can achieve perfect equity even in outside of the pandemic. Your med school example about the drawbacks of not having grades is compelling. But given the situation has drastically exacerbated existing disadvantages, I think a measure like a mandatory P/F makes a lot of sense, especially with the recruit being delayed. 

In other words, if this had happened to you in 1L, you would have gotten Ps like everyone else, the recruit would have been delayed and you would have collected your shiny As in first semester of 2L to impress employers. Not ideal, but none of this is really. 

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What I found silly was schools who did a mandatory pass fail, but didn't change their grading weights to have midterms count.

That would have helped A students be A students, without having the final have the distortive effect worried about because of different studying and writing conditions.

My cousin did well in his 1L midterms. Well enough to get into the recruit and have a shot, at least. His midterm grades were wiped and his 1L grades went pass fail. 

Silly.

Almost as silly as opting for an optional pass fail scheme.

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1 minute ago, pzabbythesecond said:

What I found silly was schools who did a mandatory pass fail, but didn't change their grading weights to have midterms count.

That would have helped A students be A students, without having the final have the distortive effect worried about because of different studying and writing conditions.

My cousin did well in his 1L midterms. Well enough to get into the recruit and have a shot, at least. His midterm grades were wiped and his 1L grades went pass fail. 

Silly.

Almost as silly as opting for an optional pass fail scheme.

It would strike me as rather unfair to suddenly make a midterm worth 100% of someone's grade for the class. 

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12 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

It would strike me as rather unfair to suddenly make a midterm worth 100% of someone's grade for the class. 

I didn't mean for it to be 100 percent, but I see what you mean, since even if schools clearly noted the midterm grade was only x percent, employers would still - in the absence of other grades - treat that as 100 percent of a student's performance.

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Posted (edited)

This would be very unfair at schools where the midterms only counted if you did worse on your final than in the midterm. At UBC there were many students who used midterms as a practice run. If people had known it would be 100% of their grade, I’m pretty sure most would have studied for their midterms differently.

I don’t think there is a universally fair way to do this. Whatever method a school chooses, there will be some winners and losers. It’s also difficult to predict what effect various grading schemes will have on the recruit. I think UBC’s combination of generously granting deferred exams and having an optional pass/fail scheme works for most people but you still find a lot of strong opposition who are not satisfied with anything less than an across the board pass/fail scheme.

Edited by Aschenbach
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On 5/16/2020 at 11:46 AM, ProfReader said:

I have no idea how schools are going to handle scholarships and hope that I don't end up on that committee.

That was my concern with optional P/F. For reasons extensively discussed, those without jobs are more or less 'forced' to take grades down to B- to avoid the negative inference from employers. Whereas those that have already secured jobs don't have that disadvantage and can freely P things to inflate the GPA for other things such as Dean's List, medals or scholarships. Optional P/F magnified the inequities between those that already struck gold in the recruit and the rest.

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1 hour ago, Pantalaimon said:

That was my concern with optional P/F. For reasons extensively discussed, those without jobs are more or less 'forced' to take grades down to B- to avoid the negative inference from employers. Whereas those that have already secured jobs don't have that disadvantage and can freely P things to inflate the GPA for other things such as Dean's List, medals or scholarships. Optional P/F magnified the inequities between those that already struck gold in the recruit and the rest.

At Allard, the minimum cumulative percentage for merit-based scholarships is 75% but you'd also need to have a minimum of 24 percentage credits in that year. You can strategically Cr some classes but there is a limit.

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8 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

I didn't mean for it to be 100 percent, but I see what you mean, since even if schools clearly noted the midterm grade was only x percent, employers would still - in the absence of other grades - treat that as 100 percent of a student's performance.

Let's be real. Employers would treat it exactly like a final grade, practically speaking.

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3 minutes ago, georgecostanzajr said:

Let's be real. Employers would treat it exactly like a final grade, practically speaking.

Yeah. I mean, I'm honestly happy for them to do that. I still think the downside (students not taking midterms seriously and thus that mark being less indicative of true ability than a final) is less than the upside (introducing SOME measure of merit because otherwise, people get by on connections, social etiquette, class privilege, etc).

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11 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Yeah. I mean, I'm honestly happy for them to do that. I still think the downside (students not taking midterms seriously and thus that mark being less indicative of true ability than a final) is less than the upside (introducing SOME measure of merit because otherwise, people get by on connections, social etiquette, class privilege, etc).

Yup, you're not wrong, but I'm just saying that in effect employers will treat that 30% midterm the same as a 100% final, whether or not a warning is placed that it was only a midterm.

At the same time, the recruit is most likely being postponed to the Winter term, so they may have fall grades by that time which will help in differentiating applicants.

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