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The North-South Divide in School Grading Standards: New Evidence from National Assessments of the Italian Student Population

TitleThe North-South Divide in School Grading Standards: New Evidence from National Assessments of the Italian Student Population
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsArgentin G, Triventi M
Secondary TitleItalian Journal of Sociology of Education
Date Published06/2015
PublisherPadova University Press
Place PublishedPadova, IT
ISSN Number2035-4983
Keywordsgeographical inequalities, grading standards, teachers’ marks, test scores

Even if marks are crucial for students’ educational careers and school-related decisions and although grading standards are a relevant topic in public debate about Italian education, in our country this research topic has not attracted much attention. In this article we investigate heterogeneity across Italian macro-regions in grading standards (degree of strictness in attributing marks by teachers) and in the coherence between teachers’ marks and students’ test scores. We use data from INVALSI-SNV on the whole student population in the 5th, 6th and 10th grade in 2011/12, with relevant information on two subjects (Italian and mathematics). We detect that Southern regions are characterized by what seems higher generosity in grading students, who display lower performance in the INVALSI assessment compared to their counterparts with the same marks and socio-demographic profile. Moreover, this generosity in attributing marks seems stronger for higher marks (9 and 10) and in mathematics, especially in lower secondary schools and lyceums. At the same time, our analysis underlines that the North-South divide is crucial but provides only a partial view of the phenomenon: indeed, we find striking differences in grading standards among Italian provinces even within macro-regions. We discuss the main implications of such geographical heterogeneity for the Italian educational system.