chapter  9
Course Grades
Pages 16

The teacher assigns the course grade, so that teacher judgments define the reward system whose implicit rules determine outcomes within the school's stratification system. Grades are, of course, the chief stratifying variable within schools. Since past grades affect both the student's interest in trying hard in the future, and the student's placement within tracking systems that determine the quantity and quality of material and instruction he or she will be presented with, they are central determinants of the student's eventual cognitive skill, and thus of the student's eventual placement within society's occupational hierarchy. (For the role of cognitive skill in determining occupational and earnings outcomes, see Chapter 4.)

Because we have measures of student background variables, teacher variables, and student skills, habits, styles, and coursework mastery, we have a unique opportunity to directly measure the effect of each of these

on course grades. That is, we can, for the first time at this level of detail, discover the implicit rules that teachers use to determine outcomes within the school's stratification system. This will provide the answers to a number of outstanding questions. First, is it true that, as has been believed for more than fifty years, Asians receive higher course grades than Anglos because "they are more docile, occasion less disciplinary trouble, and give the appearance of being busy and striving to do their best" (Strong 1934:2)? Or is it simply that they receive fair rewards for doing better schoolwork than Anglos? Second, how does this issue of rewards for habits and styles versus coursework mastery play out for blacks and Hispanics versus Anglos? And if African-American and Mexican-American students are penalized for habits and styles that are unattractive to teachers, does this differ between black and white teachers? Finally, with and without accounting for such habits, styles, and coursework mastery, are boys or girls discriminated against in course grade assignment? These and related questions will be answered by the calculations presented in this chapter.