Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/412

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402
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

25 per cent., grade C, 50 per cent., and grades D + E, 25 per cent, of the total number given by each instructor. Under the old system, forty teachers in five years graded their students so that 25 per cent, received A, 35 per cent, received B, and 32 per cent, received C. Moreover, the lack of uniformity among instructors was as great as at Harvard and California. Under the new system the irregularity of the grading was reduced the first year from one fourth to one tenth, or in the ratio of 5 to 2.

The distribution of 24,979 grades in percentages was as follows:

 
Aug., 1908 Feb., 1909 June, 1909 Feb., 1910
B 23.3 20.7 21.0 21.3 \begin{matrix}\big\}\end{matrix} 26.0
A 7.7 4.6 4.6 4.7
C 41.2 47.5 48.8 49.6
D 8.7 13.7 13.8 14.4 \begin{matrix}\big\}\end{matrix} 20.9
E 15.6 8.5 8.0 6.5
Delayed 3.5 5.0 3.8 3.5
 

Not counting the delayed reports, the distribution of the 11,342 grades for the first year of the new system was, in percentages:

A 4.9 \begin{matrix}\big\}\end{matrix} 26.6
B 21.7
C 50.0
D 14.5 \begin{matrix}\big\}\end{matrix} 23.5
E 9.0
 

In spite of the adopted definitions, the tendency remains to mark students too high. Every attempt to devise a system of marking whereby extraordinary achievement can be awarded the distinction it deserves has failed because of the democratic tendency in all institutions to place so large a proportion of students in the "distinguished" group. At Dartmouth College, a professor once announced to a large class, "Gentlemen, I must warn you that the committee on instruction has requested me to make my examinations harder, but, gentlemen, I am pleased to say that I shall continue to mark the papers." A century ago a Virginia academy attempted to have its students graded in six divisions,—bonus, melior, optimus, and malus, pejor, pessimus. But history records that "the continual tendency was to mark inferior students too high. Thus it came to pass that not half the bad scholars got malus, the worst almost never fell below it, and bonus, though a mark of approbation, came to be considered as a disgrace, while optimus, which ought to have been reserved for scholars of the highest merit, was commonly bestowed on all who rose above mediocrity." As the president of this old institution remarked, "a temporizing professor who loves popularity, and desires, like the old man in the fable, to please everybody, is sure to be guilty of this fault, and like many a politician, to sacrifice permanent good for temporary favor." This is