Mitt misses on education – students grading teachers is strategically flawed.

I would love to have the students grade the teachers at the end of the year as opposed to just the other way around so that teachers get feedback. We did that when I got to graduate school. We got to grade the teachers and then it was published. They put it up for the whole school to see in business school, how each teacher did on a whole series of dimensions and it helped.”[1]

Mitt Romney at the Education Nation Summit, September 25, 2015

This is one of those comments that seem plausible and rather innocuous until one considers the long term impact of teachers being graded by their students. The answer to that question need not be hypothetical. There is a large body of research that indicates that instructors being graded by their students is one central factor in the rampant grade inflation of the last several decades.

In a previous posting[2] I discussed the trend in higher education toward consumerism, one aspect of which is the rating of instructors by students. Simply put, high ratings are important to instructors and their institution and the best way to ensure high ratings is to give high grades. This perpetuates a cycle that results in grade-inflated transcripts that are only loosely indicative of a student’s academic capabilities. Various strategies have been proposed to correct the situation including discouraging the rating of instructors by students.

The purpose of this posting is not to rehash the grade inflation discussion. Suffice it to say that it is a real problem and erroneous or ill informed statements by presidential candidates do little to help address the issue. Is Mr. Romney aware that academic standards have been diluted by student consumerism? If not, he should avoid making authoritative statements on topics of which he has only a superficial understanding. If he is aware, then his statement can only be viewed as political pandering. Neither of these scenarios is reassuring coming from one who would be president of the United States.


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