Hacking the High School Grading System

Hacking the High School Grading System

Schneier on Security 

Interesting New York Times article about high-school students hacking the grading system.

What’s not helping? The policies many school districts are adopting that make it nearly impossible for low-performing students to fail—they have a grading floor under them, they know it, and that allows them to game the system.

Several teachers whom I spoke with or who responded to my questionnaire mentioned policies stating that students cannot get lower than a 50 percent on any assignment, even if the work was never done, in some cases. A teacher from Chapel Hill, N.C., who filled in the questionnaire’s “name” field with “No, no, no,” said the 50 percent floor and “NO attendance enforcement” leads to a scenario where “we get students who skip over 100 days, have a 50 percent, complete a couple of assignments to tip over into 59.5 percent and then pass.”

It’s a basic math hack. If a student needs two-thirds of the points—over 65%—to pass, then they have to do two-thirds of the work. But if doing zero work results in a 50% grade, then they only have to do a little bit of work to get over the pass line.

I know this is a minor thing in the universe of problems with secondary education and grading, but I found the hack interesting. (And this is exactly the sort of thing I explore in my latest book: A Hacker’s Mind.

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