Accurate grades help students, parents, teachers, and administrators allocate resources to improve student learning. Moreover, many life-altering institutional decisions are based on grades, such as whether or not students are given opportunities to pursue high performance tracks. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that inaccuracies in grading occur when teachers rely on student labels (such as ethnicity or caste) to inform their grading. Moreover, studies have shown large inaccuracies in grading occur when teachers rely on labels about a student’s prior grades to assign grades.
With the above in mind, we have four goals in mind for this study. First, we seek to validate prior studies by examining how teacher assessments are affected by information about a student's prior performance. Specifically, we look at how labels about the prior performance of a student affect teacher grading.
Second and more importantly, we seek to examine how the effect of such labels changes as teachers grade additional work from a student. On the one hand, teachers may get more accurate when grading a given student’s work over time, in spite of labels. The hypothesis is that labels cause teachers to assign inaccurate grades at first, but these inaccuracies resolve as the teacher interacts with and becomes familiar with students over time. On the other hand, any inaccuracies could also compound over time, leading to cycles of cumulative (dis)advantage. This may occur if teachers assign inaccurate grades in the past and proceed to rely heavily on prior grades when assigning future grades. This may create a positive feedback cycle where minor inaccuracies amplify or become entrenched over time. In other words, we should be more worried about inaccurate grading in practice.
Third, it is unclear if the actual initial performance of a student also leads to inaccuracies in grading. Labels are social classifications imposed upon a student, whereas initial performance comes from an individual student him or herself. For example, at the start of a school year, a teacher will grade the first assignments of students and give them a grade. Will the teacher’s first grades create inaccuracies in how the teacher grades later assignments? Is the effect cumulative?
Fourth and finally, it is unclear how confirmatory or contradictory evidence changes inaccuracies in grading. For instance, if a student is labelled as a poor performer, but he or she displays high initial performance, how does the teacher respond?