October 23, 2003


Grade inflation takes a toll on students (Fredreka Schouten, Gannett News Service)

Around the country, even students with stellar high school records have discovered that they don't have all the skills to survive in college. In Georgia, for instance, four out of 10 students who earn the popular Hope Scholarships to the state's university system lose the
scholarship after they earn about 30 credits — roughly a year's worth of work — because they can't keep their grades up.

Performances on college admissions tests point to possible grade inflation. Fifteen years ago, students with A averages accounted for 28% of SAT test takers, says Wayne Camara, who oversees research for the College Board.

Today, 42% of college-bound seniors have A averages, but they score no better on the college admissions tests than did A students a decade earlier.

Some education experts say the trend is a clear sign that high school teachers are handing out high grades for weak work. But many say the real culprit is the typical high school course load. Students just aren't taking the rigorous math, science and writing classes in high school that they need to succeed in college and the workplace.

Only 1 in 3 18-year-olds is even minimally prepared for college, according to a report by the Manhattan Institute, a New York-based think tank. The picture is even bleaker for minorities: Only 20% of black students in the class of 2001 were college-ready.

No problem; the colleges inflate them too and then you're just not ready for the workplace.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 23, 2003 1:33 PM

That's ok, just vote for the Dems so they can make it impossible to fire you!

Posted by: some random person at October 23, 2003 2:51 PM

Since complaints about grade inflation go back to before I was born, if they were legitimate, by now the lowest grade would be A.

An A-average is a meaningless thing unless you know what the average is of. As Schouten almost says, an A in calculus will get you further in college than an A in home ec.

The new phenomenon is not grade inflation but something I haven't seen a word for -- grade superposition, perhaps.

When I was in school, the highest grade you could get was A. By the time my children were in high school, you could get extra credit, so it was possible to graduate with an average above the previous top 4.0. I have seen graduates with averages as high as 4.8.

In theory, and to a considerable extent in practice, this is not a deflation of A, which retains its status as floor/ceiling.

I wrote a column earlier this year arguing against
requiring candidates to exceed minimum standards. It got an enthusiastic response but only from engineers. The lawyers were baffled.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 23, 2003 3:24 PM

All of us know students who would always get the highest grade, and yet be unable to understand the material (particularly in high school). The "best" students were often the B+ and B students who worked hard to master the material, whether physics or languages. Grade inflation is probably a misnomer, especially now that bias plays such a role in the 'softer' fields.

And Harry's point is something: those who are used to preening and primping (and backstabbing) to get ahead academically would hate the hardest workers and try to run them off, even if they pose no threat (on the GPA curve). If merit were taken literally instead of statistically, the very top would become irrelevant. Put them in the towers and keep them there. The real movers would be those who could actually communicate and teach what they have learned. No posturing is required.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 23, 2003 4:41 PM

It should be embarrassing - but isn't - to the education business, that its graduates need remedial reading, writing, and arithmetic, when they enter the real world.

And, real businesses chalk up that remediation expense as just another "cost of doing business". Which is passed on to the paying public in higher prices.

What to do? Naturally, colleges and universities raise tuitions and fees.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at October 24, 2003 7:57 AM