Guessing Game

What does this graphic represent?

Via the NCTQ blog, this new paper is from U of Missouri economist Cory Koedel:

The primary purpose of this paper is to highlight the magnitude of the current grading-standards discrepancy between education and non-education departments.

Anecdotally, although most people seem to be aware that grading standards are lower in education departments, the magnitude of the difference does not seem to be well understood.

The graphs show 2 different universities: Indiana University (public) and Miami of Ohio (private). Koedel found the pattern true at every university he examined (12).

The X axis is GPA. I.e., A = 4.0, B = 3.0, etc.

All the closely-bunched lines are grades given in other departments: poli sci, psych, sociology, English, history, philosophy, math, science, econ, bio, chem, computer sci and physics.

The blue GPA line far to the right represents courses in the education department.

Koedel concludes:

Understanding of the policy consequences of the favorable grades awarded by education departments is also important. Because the vast majority of education majors go on to work as classroom teachers, a first-order issue is to determine if and how the low grading standards in education departments affect teacher quality in K-12 schools.

Based on the larger research literature I suggest some of the most likely possibilities.

These include that the low grading standards

(1) reduce human-capital accumulation during college for prospective teachers,

(2) result in inaccurate performance signals being sent to students in education classes, and

(3) affect evaluation standards for teachers in the workforce.

There is a considerable research basis for making the connections in (1) and (2), although again, there is no direct evidence. Linking the low grading standards in education departments to the low evaluation standards for teachers in the workforce is more speculative, although there is some support in the literature for this possibility as well.

I would add

(4) easy classes send not just inaccurate performance signals, but inaccurate signals on how durn hard the actual work is -- how tough it is to be even a good teacher, let alone a great teacher.

You gotta pick a side. Either teaching is hard, or it's easy.

If it's easy, then it's okay for everyone to get an A.

If it's hard, then some people won't be good at it, and therefore shouldn't be able to ace the coursework.