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Grading Disparity Between Departments: Even Worse Than You Thought
About a month ago, in Part 3 of this extended series on grade inflation at Dartmouth, I showed how grading standards vary wildly between academic departments. For example, the average course median grade over the last five years in Theater was 3.90, while in Chemistry it was only 3.22. As it turns out, there’s reason to believe that this calculation actually underestimated the problem.
Since I wrote that initial post, a number of people have reached out to me wondering about the effect of enrollment size on the analysis. We saw last time how small courses tend to have higher median grades. But the original department/program-specific data I published didn’t take that fact into account. That chart didn’t differentiate between large courses and small courses — meaning that 100 grades curved around a lower median for an introductory course had the same weight as a high-median, 12-student advanced seminar. Weighting the grades by enrollment isn’t more accurate, but it shows something slightly different. Rather than giving an average based solely on total courses, it should more closely reflect the total number of individual grades given out, albeit imperfectly.
For departments that have roughly equally-sized courses, or similar grading standards between large and small courses, the difference is not large. However, you’ll see that some departments suffer big drops or jump slightly higher compared to their peers. Comparative Literature, for example, went from the eighth-highest median grades to the fifth-highest, suggesting that their larger classes actually give better grades than their smaller ones. Most departments went in the opposite direction, though, including nearly every science and social science. See the full results below:
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
August 23, 2009
Fare Thee Well, Tom Crady
And now Dean Tom Crady has precipitously announced his departure from the College after only 20 months on the job. How to read this? By way of background, prior to coming to Dartmouth, Crady had…
May 31, 2009
Kangaroo Court, Indeed
In an interview with The Dartmouth, alumni-elected trustee T.J. Rodgers ‘70 explained his reasons for declining to participate in future evaluations of trustees up for “re-election,” namely the “kangaroo court” nature of such discussion in…