With a growing student body at Palo Alto High School and increased enrollment in classes, teachers now have to grade more tests than ever, yet students and parents still expect these tests to be graded in a timely fashion. Teachers are employing a peer grading system in order to keep their grade books up to date and help students better understand the material. While peer grading does speed up the process of grading tests, it is not fair to students whose tests are being corrected by their classmates.

For one, students do not have teaching credentials. They are not properly trained to grade or make decisions on partial credit. Because of this, there are often discrepancies on how the same test is graded. Furthermore, with many graders, these discrepancies are much more frequent as it is impossible to eliminate human differences.

While these problems are unavoidable with so many untrained graders, there are instances when  students may intentionally affect their peers’ grades positively or negatively. Students are biased towards the grading process more than teachers are. Some students may want to help their classmates or friends by awarding them undeserved points. Conversely, some students may want to unfairly mark their peers down in an attempt to create a better curve on the test. Neither of these scenarios are ethical or fair to the students.

Teachers may want to use a peer grading system because they think students will learn from the process. However, this could also be accomplished by going over the test in class or by assigning test corrections, neither of which jeopardize a student’s grade or the test’s integrity.

If a teacher feels that a peer grading system is absolutely necessary, there are ways in which a peer grading system can be made more fair to the students involved. In AP Psychology, students grade each other’s free response test questions. To help eliminate potential bias, students grade in pairs and are given detailed rubrics. The rubrics outline exactly what a student must say in order to receive a point for that section of the prompt. Furthermore, once the test is returned, students who feel their tests are not graded properly may challenge their grades by underlining the sentence or sentences that they believe should have received points. The challenge is then reviewed by the teacher to determine if the student should have received credit for their answers.

While this system is far from perfect, it does just about as good a job eliminating discrepancies as a peer grading system can. Therefore, if  teachers feels that they must employ a peer grading system, they should look to use one following the AP Psychology model. However, simply handing out tests for students to grade is not fair especially in an era during which students are so ruthlessly scrutinized for their grades and competition for college acceptance is cutthroat.

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