More on lax grading standards in teacher prep

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Some months ago I wrote about a rather sad assignment we found at a well-regarded midwestern college, in which teachers in training were asked in a math methods course to write and illustrate a children's storybook. While the assignment clearly did little to build the pedagogical skills of these future teachers, it gave them a lot of practice coloring inside the lines. 

Recently another assignment involving a children's storybook was brought to my attention—this one for a children's literature course.  In this assignment, candidates were asked to write and illustrate an original story, but that sensible task was largely irrelevant to their grades.  The real points—96 percent of the total grade—were earned by 1) accurately numbering the pages of their story, and 2) correctly formatting its title page and its front and back covers. The story's content, in terms of its ability to communicate to and motivate children, was worth only 4 percent of the grade.

After seeing assignments such as these, it's no surprise to learn that grades awarded in university education departments are consistently higher than grades in other disciplines. The suggestion by some that these higher grades can be attributed to the extraordinary teaching skills of the instructors—whereas math and engineering students have lower GPAs not because they are challenged by truly rigorous content, but because math and engineering profs just aren't up to the level of ed school profs—is a rationalization worthy of some kind of prize.    

Julie Greenberg