The Situationist

Ideology and Grading

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 22, 2011

From Inside Higher Ed:

Republican professors and Democratic professors presumably produce different outcomes when they enter the ballot box, but what about when they record grades?

A forthcoming study finds that there may be notable differences. Democratic professors appear to be “more egalitarian” than their Republican counterparts when it comes to grading, meaning that more of the Democratic grades are in the middle. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to award very high grades and very low grades.

While the study documents those differences, the work will not satisfy political partisans hoping to demonstrate that Republicans are trying to encourage Darwinian competition with grading or that Democrats are Lake Wobegon graders afraid to suggest anyone did poorly. That’s because the study makes clear that the researchers lacked the information to determine whether the Democratic or Republican grades were better reflections of student performance. The only thing the researchers could vouch for was the politically linked pattern in grading.

The study — forthcoming in Applied Economics — is by Talia Bar, an assistant professor at Cornell University, and Asaf Zussman, assistant professor of economics at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. They examined thousands of grades in a dataset covering the grades awarded at an unnamed elite American university between 2000 and 2004. Party registrations were used to identify professors’ political inclinations, and the faculty at this university leaned Democratic, especially among humanities professors. Using SAT scores as a proxy for the preparedness of students, the researchers were able to rule out patterns in which Republican or Democratic professors had better students.

On grade distribution, Republicans were more likely to give very high and very low grades. Among grades given by Republicans, 6.2 percent were C- or lower, compared to only 4.0 percent of the Democratic grades. But Republicans were also more likely to give out A+ grades (8 percent of their grades, compared to only 3.5 percent from Democrats).

Another key difference is that black students tend to fare better with Democrats than with Republicans.

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More.

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