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Is student assessment a good idea?

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I want to share an opinion with you. Since my English are not perfect, feel free to beat me hard for any grammar and vocabulary mistake.

The student assessment is necessary for the classic education model. It actually rewards the good student and punish the bad one. By that way, it encourage the students to study harder and harder, in order to get good grades and be useful for the society. Sounds like a good idea, right?

Well, no! The student assessment is unacceptable. Firstly, it encourage the antagonism between the students and sometimes it takes it to extreme. Secondly, it separates the students by putting them in dies. This encourage wrong stereotypes, like "the nerd" and "the punk". Thirdly, it insults the intelligence and creativity of the students. Because somebody has bad grades, doesn't mean that he/she is a lazy dumb. The students should not let their grades determine their life. Even brilliant minds, like Albert Einstein, had problems with the school and even left it.

Any assessment system is doomed to fail, because every student is different, with his/her own personality. You just can't use objective criteria to evaluate them.

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Well, Of course we could scrap the whole idea of grades, but where would it lead us? If someone is simply not good at academic things, this doesn't mean that he or she can't learn a trade and become a master of it, thus earning the same amount of money as somebody who studied engineering. Student assessment helps to see somebody's skills. Additionally, not everybody has to go to Uni or college. What's the sense in people studying history of art and then working at "The Golden M"? I'd prefer people to do an apprenticeship that leads them to success in the economy, as they are the ones that companies really need. We don't produce such great cars because of our good college graduates, it's the skilled workers that help the economy thrive. Just look at the UK, where half of the population works in highly paid commercial jobs and the other half is either workless or does some low paid job that a chimpanzee with hearing impairments could do, too

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I agree that at some point someone will inevitably need to know if you are good at something. The ideal scenario IMO would be to put you to the test. However, there may not always be time for that. So you may want to rely on other peoples' (hopefully expert) verdict - at least to sort out most of the extremely unlikely candidates. For example, a student with grade B- in English doesn't necessarily have to be better than a student with grade C. However, if you're looking for someone who's pretty good at English, a grade F indicates that the respective person is, in all likelihood, not your candidate.

 

However, grades do have undesirable side effects:

  • As you say, they can demotivate. This is because grades are not even aimed at you. They are not a service for your benefit. They are a service for others to make it easier to assess your capabilities in order to avoid lengthy and complicated tests (see above). Obviously, students need feedback and critique if you want them to improve.

    But what is that feedback, and what is its value? In my opinion, the feedback could be like "my English" is singular, so it's "my English is" and not "my English are" - that's where you can see what was wrong and how it would be right. If I was a good teacher, I'd be able to help you in making the right decision. This has some value for you.

    However, if I now proceed to slap a stamp onto your sheet: "F - failed" - this does not have much value for you. It may be a serious downer, though. It may depress you and make you feel bad. "I failed, I'm not good, I suck". Will this help you to get better? Will it motivate you? Will it help you in the next test? I think there are good reasons to doubt that seriously. In fact, the opposite may be true. It can put additional pressure on you - "I failed last time already, I cannot afford another fail". And it may crush your self-confidence - "I've already seen that I suck at this, so I'm probably going to blow it again".

 

  • Grading systems have flaws. Studies have often shown that the students' actual performance only affected grades up to a certain degree. Factors like gender, social background, overall behaviour - all irrelevant when it comes to judging your ability to speak a foreign language, to solve a mathematical problem, to summarise a story, to analyse a poem, or describe the geographical features of a country, to name but a few examples - also play a role, often an important one.

    An example from Germany: After 4 years of primary school, students go to one out of three secondary school forms, depending on their potential. In short, the ones with lower grades will typically go to a less demanding and shorter school form that's supposed to prepare them for an apprenticeship or similar. The ones with the best grades will go to a rather demanding and longer school form that is aimed at preparing them for university and/or higher-qualified jobs - you get the general idea. However, ultimately a primary school teacher judges the child in question and makes a recommendation. These recommendations were found to be biased and based largely on the aforementioned factors when checked in a study.

    Another factor is participation in class: In what way does it diminish e.g. your mathematical skills if you are not the kind of person to participate actively? It is not at all related to skills, it's just a tiny fraction of your social behaviour, your individual character. I don't think students should be punished or rewarded on these grounds. Even if you thought this was necessary, it should never be mixed with a grade that's intended to show how good you are at maths or whatever. "Yeah, student A can solve this equation perfectly, but he's an introvert, so we'll say his solution is less valuable. Student B here, he didn't do quite so well, but he's an extrovert, so he is clearly better at maths." Yeah, right. Makes perfect sense.

    This means that although the system is designed for continuous grading, better grades are not necessarily the key to success. Likewise, worse grades are not necessarily the consequence of worse performance.

 

There are probably more factors. However, I think these should be enough to show that grading has disadvantages. Are these a fair trade-off for the advantages? I'm not sure.

 

IMO, grading should best be reserved to the absolute minimum required. I think relevant tests are always better than some generic grades. They have the additional benefit of being able to cover skills at which you don't ever get graded at school, but which will become important in the field you are interested in, the famous "soft skills" being among these (but by far not the only ones!).

 

I remember that for my course of studies, we had to have an overall grade average of X: worse average value, you're out - better average value, you're in. However, since in Germany you can choose and prioritize subjects to a certain degree, my average consisted of different grades for different subjects than other applicants' average. This way, the university ended up comparing the uncomparable.

 

I also remember we had a dropout ratio of ~70%! These dropouts were not all related to bad grades at the university - many people just found the subject not to be what they had expected, or nothing they would really be willing to apply to earn their living. Imagine how many of these could have been filtered out by a good entry test that would take these factors into consideration and help to counteract wrong expectation and erroneous concepts of what you'll actually be doing!
Imagine how many people may have been found to be real talents in the subject, despite a lower grade average, too! And now imagine all these had been able to learn in smaller groups that are nearly completely made up of people who are pretty sure this is what they really want to do! Don't you think the outcome would have been better for all involved parties? And this even included those who learnt through the entry test that despite good grades, this particular course of studies will not be such a good choice for them after all.

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Nonsense. Grades are a good thing, if used properly.

 

School is supposed to teach people certain bits of knowledge. Factual knowledge, such as history, math, etc. These are simple facts or methods of thinking that are absolutely required in order to be capable of working and living in a society. This knowledge, at least in the classical model, is also standardized. If one teacher explains math in front of a class, everyone gets the same information. And the testing is also done in a standardized way, everyone has to answer the same questions. The grade then reflects a students success at digesting and integrating (learning) the information he was tested on. So, how well can a student read, how well can he do math, how well does he know his historical facts, etc. The grade reflects a students success, and if someone has a low grade it should tell him that he needs to work harder at that particular subject. This is the job of grades. Nothing more, nothing less. 

 

Of course people cry 'but every child is precious and unique'. Sure they are. But primary school and highschool are NOT the places that are supposed to be developing 'the uniqueness' of children. They  are there to teach you a basic level of general knowledge on a range of subjects. If you already want them to be stimulating their creativity and uniqueness, thats fine, but you can do that in your childs spare time, and after that there is also college, where your child has every opportunity to develop themselves in the direction they like. 

 

Furthermore, the whole 'my child is unique' argument often comes from parents who can't handle the fact their child is in fact, just an average kid. Because lets face it, intelligence wise, there is a 66% chance that your child is average, a 15% chance your child is above average and a 15% chance your child is below average. And that is if you take it on the whole. And I can tell you that if you as a parent only had a low level of education, the chance that your child is also only capable of a low level of education is significantly more than 15%. DNA, food consumption patterns, healthcare and the probable lack of stimulation from the environment itself, have already decided what your child will be capable of achieving. 

 

As for the 'my child gets demotivated by failure' argument. Grow up, failure is a part of life, don't protect your child from it, have him embrace his failures as learning opportunities. And if they get demotivated, its the job of the parents to be there and motivate them again. Besides, the real world has no time for people who can't handle being told that they did a bad job. Companies are not going to go out of their way to spare your feelings when you messed up whatever it was that you needed to do. Your manager will tell you when you screwed up, and if you never learned how to deal with failing in a constructive manner, then you are going to have a hard time operating in the real world. 

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In a social system that is based in competency of all its units, is obvious that the educational system will work for educate people that will compete between them, adding another generation of this system.

It cannot be possible to change the way of the education if the view of competency doesn't change to cooperation. While this doesn't happen, then you will still watching how the schools are divided into "nerds" and "punks" (but what happen to the "nerd-punks"?).

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Nonsense.

Well, thank you for this well-considered and respectful reply. The right tone and a good argument, too. :)

 

Grades are a good thing, if used properly.

Yes, that doesn't contradict what I wrote. The question is on where proper use begins and where it ends. And if the current use is the best one.

 

School is supposed to teach people certain bits of knowledge. Factual knowledge, such as history, math, etc. These are simple facts or methods of thinking that are absolutely required in order to be capable of working and living in a society. This knowledge, at least in the classical model, is also standardized. If one teacher explains math in front of a class, everyone gets the same information. And the testing is also done in a standardized way, everyone has to answer the same questions.

So much is certain and has never been doubted, denied or disputed anywhere in this thread.

 

The grade then reflects a students success at digesting and integrating (learning) the information he was tested on. So, how well can a student read, how well can he do math, how well does he know his historical facts, etc. The grade reflects a students success, and if someone has a low grade it should tell him that he needs to work harder at that particular subject. This is the job of grades. Nothing more, nothing less. 

A student can see what he did wrong, how much he did wrong, and where his weaknesses were pretty easily: Everywhere where the teacher corrected him/her. If you get handed back your math exam and you made practically all calculations correctly, but messed up each and every graph you had to draw, you don't need to be Einstein to figure out you're probably doing something wrong with the graphs. If you got interrupted every two seconds in your pronunciation excercise, you don't have to be a genius to guess that your pronunciation leaves much to be desired.

 

The only information grades contribute to this experience is how far up or down on this standardised "assessment ladder" you will be, but that stuff becomes relevant around the time you will need to prove your qualification in view of a future career. Nobody hires children, and I don't see the compelling reasons for sending six-year-olds home with "fails". Or to turn away someone from a university because eight years ago he used to suck at chemistry and therefore didn't quite make the required average grade.

 

Of course people cry 'but every child is precious and unique'. Sure they are. But primary school and highschool are NOT the places that are supposed to be developing 'the uniqueness' of children. They  are there to teach you a basic level of general knowledge on a range of subjects. If you already want them to be stimulating their creativity and uniqueness, thats fine, but you can do that in your childs spare time, and after that there is also college, where your child has every opportunity to develop themselves in the direction they like. 

Well, there may be people who think and/or say that. But not here in this thread (so far at least). So you're basically countering things you dragged into this thread yourself.

 

Furthermore, the whole 'my child is unique' argument often comes from parents who can't handle the fact their child is in fact, just an average kid. Because lets face it, intelligence wise, there is a 66% chance that your child is average, a 15% chance your child is above average and a 15% chance your child is below average. And that is if you take it on the whole. And I can tell you that if you as a parent only had a low level of education, the chance that your child is also only capable of a low level of education is significantly more than 15%. DNA, food consumption patterns, healthcare and the probable lack of stimulation from the environment itself, have already decided what your child will be capable of achieving.

See above - such parents exists, but none of the contributors to this thread seems to be one of them. This point of view was introduced by yourself.

 

As for the 'my child gets demotivated by failure' argument. Grow up, failure is a part of life, don't protect your child from it, have him embrace his failures as learning opportunities. And if they get demotivated, its the job of the parents to be there and motivate them again. Besides, the real world has no time for people who can't handle being told that they did a bad job. Companies are not going to go out of their way to spare your feelings when you messed up whatever it was that you needed to do. Your manager will tell you when you screwed up, and if you never learned how to deal with failing in a constructive manner, then you are going to have a hard time operating in the real world. 

Well, growing up is what children do. And failure is what they experience - do you think if they get handed back an essay and it's red all over, they will think "wow, I did great"? Do you think they won't be disappointed when their foreign language text comes back all crossed out and full of corrections? Or when their experiment doesn't work? Or when they can't keep up running with the others in sports? Failure and disappointments will be learned either way; I just don't see the need to - figuratively speaking - stamp "F for failure" labels on young childrens' foreheads in addition to the failure and disappointment they just experienced anyway.

 

If you cannot jump farther than a bag of flour, is it your school's job to train you a little and hopefully show you how to work on your performance and jump farther, or is it your school's job to tell you that you are a total failure because you cannot jump to save your life?

 

 

And just to avoid wrong impressions: I'm neither parent of a child I mistake for a genius (nor of any child, for that matter), and I finished the highest secondary school form as one of the best of my class, never had problems at school. And yet, I still think grading was (and is) overdone and could be reduced.

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"By their fruits, ye shall know them." - An Ancient Famous Book.

 

Evaluations as they are done now only indicate that some students are good at swatting up for examinations.  I used to teach computer programming and the only good evaluation for that discipline is a working program that has been created from a specification.  Because students tend to copy from each other, one has to find a different assignment for each one.

 

The same thing applies to higher degrees.  Publication of a research paper and its defence is a reasonable evaluation for one facet of knowledge.

 

The best evaluations came from the universities in the late middle ages after the Renaissance.  Universities were free and anyone could attend.  To get a degree, however, you had to get a professor to agree to take you into his tutelage.  When a student had achieved his degree, in the supervising professor's opinion, it was granted.  This does not teach life skills, however.

 

Basic life skills, including literacy and numeracy could be produced the same way.  First by parents, then by something more practical than a classroom full of desks, lessons given by a talking head, and tests.  With today's communications, Internet schools are starting to spring up, and such schools, supervised in groups by skilled teachers, seem to be working very well.  If the student doesn't understand a lesson, it can be rerun as often as necessary until the point is made.

 

Not everyone is suited for university level study.  Often this sort of regimen is found to be boring in the extreme by the very bright, and completely opaque by others whose skills fall in other areas.  Professions and trades each have their own tuition, and should be accessible to anyone who wants to enter whichever one attracts a person.

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My apologies for the utterly messed up fonts, its because the quote system is a little wonky. 


Well, thank you for this well-considered and respectful reply. The right tone and a good argument, too. :)

 

Which is why you shouldn't quote people out of context :) 

 

 

 

Yes, that doesn't contradict what I wrote. The question is on where proper use begins and where it ends. And if the current use is the best one.

 

My post was not meant to be taken as a direct reply on anything you said. 

 

So much is certain and has never been doubted, denied or disputed anywhere in this thread.

 

 

No, but it never hurts to have a firm grasp on the obvious. You would be surprised how many times it helps to get people on the same page. 
 

 


 

A student can see what he did wrong, how much he did wrong, and where his weaknesses were pretty easily: Everywhere where the teacher corrected him/her. If you get handed back your math exam and you made practically all calculations correctly, but messed up each and every graph you had to draw, you don't need to be Einstein to figure out you're probably doing something wrong with the graphs. If you got interrupted every two seconds in your pronunciation excercise, you don't have to be a genius to guess that your pronunciation leaves much to be desired.

 

The only information grades contribute to this experience is how far up or down on this standardised "assessment ladder" you will be, but that stuff becomes relevant around the time you will need to prove your qualification in view of a future career. Nobody hires children, and I don't see the compelling reasons for sending six-year-olds home with "fails". Or to turn away someone from a university because eight years ago he used to suck at chemistry and therefore didn't quite make the required average grade.

 

 

That depends on the kind of test. Standardized tests also include multiple choice questions, and those do not clearly tell a student what exactly they did wrong and where they did it wrong. All it tells them there is that they got the answer wrong. Aside from that, grades are as much a message to the parents as they are to the students. Parents generally do not get to see where exactly it went wrong, but if you tell them their child got a 5 out of 10 on math, they know math is a subject they need to pay attention too with their child, while the 8/10 for geography means their child is doing just fine on that by themselves. 

 

Of course, you could opt for constant in depth discussions with parents on what exactly their child did wrong, but that would require constant parent teacher communication, and I can imagine that if a teacher has 30+ children that is simply to much work. Also, that would only work on the precondition that the parents are smart enough themselves to understand what the teacher is saying. I can again imagine that in certain areas of the country parents themselves would have serious trouble with that. 

 

Also, are there actually universities that turn down prospective students because they messed up chemistry when they want to study a subject that is completely unrelated to chemistry? If so, that is a ridiculous practice. Only subjects that are relevant to the study they want to follow should be looked at. 

 

 

Well, there may be people who think and/or say that. But not here in this thread (so far at least). So you're basically countering things you dragged into this thread yourself.

 

 

 

 

See above - such parents exists, but none of the contributors to this thread seems to be one of them. This point of view was introduced by yourself.

 

Oh really? Check the op. The picture (I know, satirical cartoon) is a product of believing that every child is 'unique' and as a result standardized testing and grades are 'unfair' because they don't take into account the uniqueness of each individual child. 

 

Furthermore, things like "it insults the intelligence and creativity of the students. Because somebody has bad grades, doesn't mean that he/she is a lazy dumb" are the same argument repacked. It insults the unique intelligence of little Timmy because he failed a math test. But little Timmy is actually really good at math, in his own special way. No, little Timmy failing a math test simply means he is behind on schedule for whatever reason, not because he isn't given the opportunity to show how special he is. 

 

Well, growing up is what children do. And failure is what they experience - do you think if they get handed back an essay and it's red all over, they will think "wow, I did great"? Do you think they won't be disappointed when their foreign language text comes back all crossed out and full of corrections? Or when their experiment doesn't work? Or when they can't keep up running with the others in sports? Failure and disappointments will be learned either way; I just don't see the need to - figuratively speaking - stamp "F for failure" labels on young childrens' foreheads in addition to the failure and disappointment they just experienced anyway.

 

So, you would reduce communication with the parents and the child simply out of fear that you might hurt the child's feelings? Well then that's the lesson of getting an F stamped on your essay. Grow a thick skin so that kind of stuff won't hurt you. 

 

 

If you cannot jump farther than a bag of flour, is it your school's job to train you a little and hopefully show you how to work on your performance and jump farther, or is it your school's job to tell you that you are a total failure because you cannot jump to save your life?

 

The two aren't mutually exclusive. The school can tell you you're a total failure because you can't jump, and still train you so perhaps by the time you leave school you learned how to jump a bit better.

 

 

 

 

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There absolutely NEEDS to be some (or several) form(s) of communicating the progress, achievement, performance, and intelligence of students. Currently, the best way to do this, which is the most accepted form, is a combination of grades, feedback (red writing on paper), and test scores. If you give everyone only positive feedback even when doing poorly, you are doing the student a GREAT disservice. One example (which was made fun of in some cartoon) was giving everyone pretty pictures instead of letter or number grades (like rainbows, unicorns, sunshine, smiley faces, flowers, and clouds) where you don't fail anyone but give someone an ambiguously happy cloud or flower if they are doing poorly and really over-the-top happy/colorful pictures if they are doing well.

 

I have slightly over a 3.0 GPA and pretty good ACT and SAT test scores and I am in my last year of community college, soon to apply for University.

 

 

--Ocram

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The problem is not the concept of grading itself. The problem, as the comic in the OP makes a point of, is the philosophy that everyone must be judged by the same standards. It's easy to understand why such a philisophy exists, especially in a society that has had and still has lots of problems where people are unfairly judged by different standards because of their race, gender, etc.

 

But the fact remains that different people have different skill sets. And while some basic knowledge in every subject is necessary to get by in life, once you get past that level people can and will start to specialize. Having a hard time with algebra, or high school English, or whatever, does not mean you are less skilled, it just means that that is not your strong point. Reducing the core requirements for high school and allowing for students to do more of what they are good at would be helpful.

 

Of course, even then, it's still necessary to understand that there are many key attributes a person can have that school grades do not and cannot measure. And they therefore no matter what are not the entirety of how a student should be judged.

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The only problem I see with the current grading system, at least in the united states, is that there seems to be more of an interest in just getting a grade and less of an interest in learning.

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....

The State of Pennsylvania made it s requirement that we need t pass the keystone exams to graduate. So every high school n the state, from Philly to Pittsburgh, is taking it. Only problem is, we don't learn now. We learn how to take huge big gigantic exams. And something doesn't seem right about that. We sold be learning the material more than how to take it. We should actually learn what the schedule says we do.

I don't take Algebra or Physics, I take "study for exams" two times in a row.

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Well now I was homeschooled so my grades don't count, as I wasn't tested with the standard questions. Also the grades I did get weren't brilliant. However at TAFE I successfully completed my certificates II and III in Business in a year. My teacher had no problems with me whatsoever. 

 

In this day and age of calculators, Googlemaps and Wikipedia, grades mean little. At TAFE we had 'competent' or 'not yet competent'. 

 

I am not good at doing math mentally, but I understand mathematical concepts. I think the understanding is more important these days than execution. Trades are where you need to learn actual skills. School is more about learning basics and getting to understand the world. 

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The current gelid grading system is that it believes "one size fits all".  As I said in my foregoing post, the only way to find out what a person knows in a given field is to look at his work in the field.  This means that even for professions there has to be an apprenticeship system.  The big professions have them: medicine - internship; jurisprudence - articling and clerkship.

 

Academic qualification is only an admission to the entry level and many don't realize that they are considered beginners just because they have a diploma and someone said to them 'I admit you'.  Foo!  What have you done for me lately.

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Let me present you the three-tier education system of bavaria:

3052_schulsystemgrafik_fr_web_455px_engl

source:http://www.km.bayern.de/education-in-bavaria.html

 

pupils are sorted to three different types of schools after year 4, according to their academic skills. This is often criticised as being harsh and competitive, but I think it's great.

1st. you are in an environment with other pupils that have the same level of proficiency

2nd. even if you are sent to "Hauptschule" after year 4, this doesn't mean that you can't change the school type if you work hard and get good grades(I know of a young woman who started at Hauptschule and studies Law now)

If you finish an apprenticeship/ vocational training, you are just as qualified in your profession(things like: IT, business,etc) as somebody who studied it(and will propably earn the same amount of money)

Then  of course, there's still the possibility to start dual studies, which combines an apprenticeship with a degree, which means that you earn money while you study.

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Streaming was always a relatively good idea when we had it in Ontario.  While streaming began seamlessly in Grade 9 I am sure that there were some behind the scenes evaluations done as early as grades 6 or 7.  However, at the end of grade 8 students were asked whether they wanted to enter the trades stream, the commercial stream or the general (academic) stream.

 

This was in effect until sometime after 1950 and I was streamed into the academic stream almost without effort.  I have several school chums who wound up in other areas and were quite happy and successful.  Alas, most of them are gone, and I am out of touch with the rest.

 

Streaming continued through high-school.  Those more artistically inclined were encouraged to take more humanities and language courses.  I was streamed into the sciences.  My final credits at the end of high-school, which got me accepted into Queen's University's Faculty of Applied Science (Engineering) were 3 Maths, 2 Physics, Chemistry, 2 Latin, and the mandatory 2 English.  Somewhere in there I managed to learn Differential Calculus and a good stab at the Integral side on my own.  Calculus was not taught in Ontario Secondary Schools at that time (1955).

 

My sister, following 11 years after me was not streamed.  She eventually took a college course in Journalism but didn't finish when she got married and started raising nieces and nephews for me.

 

Later on, as an academic myself, I realized that tests and examinations only high lighted those who were good at exams.  Since I was teaching software engineering and programming, it was easy for me to devise practical final projects which were heavily weighted for passing grades.  I also used an examination generator to generate unique papers for each examinee.  Same questions, but shuffled for each paper.  A real difficult thing to mark, but worth it.  The really good programmers passed and the rest failed.

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I don't know. I want to say yes, but I can't get graded for the job I'm angling for (script writer for video games) because in "English" we're studying City of the Beasts (which is *****), a book written by a Brazilian. Translated to English. As high bloody literature. It's hippy crap.

I have many scripts for the Halo universe, and should anyone like, I can send them their way.

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