Friday, November 03, 2006

Grade Inflation at UM-Flint


At 11/03/2006 11:14 AM, Anonymous Walt G. said...

Professor Perry:

How can you inflate something that is hypothetical?

A's, B's, C's. . . are grades based on possibly thousands of variables that only exist at that exact moment in time and space. Even the same professor may give two startlingly different grades for almost the same work in the same class during the same semester. If you cannot compare the professor even to himself or herself during the same semester, how can you compare grades between colleges and years trended over time?

Is a college student who gets an A for a class because he or she has perfect attendance any "smarter" than a student who receives a B with identical scores but misses one class? How about professors who subconsciously gives harder grades out one semester because they are going through a divorce or their child died in a war? Are his or her students "dumber" that semester?

Maybe trying to compare grades over time and space is as difficult as comparing the purchasing power of a dollar over time without a CPI factor. Difficult to grasp--impossible to measure. How are qualitative factors changed into quantitative units and then trended over time?

Sorry to be such a pain professor, once again; however, my engineering background and the knowledge that I acquired from your PUB 580 class taught me to question dubious numerical relationships. I guess I just want to know what an "A" is before I accept that it is being inflated.

At 11/03/2006 8:56 PM, Blogger Mark Perry said...

See GradeInflation
for more information on this topic.

At 11/04/2006 6:08 PM, Anonymous Walt G. said...

Yes, thanks, I read the article, but I still don't see any hard evidence/data of anything sinister at play with grade inflation. "Grade Improvement" or "Grade Increase" would be a more apt description that does not carry such negative connotations.

Let's look at an alternative view of GPA increase taking for granted that grades of years ago actually can be compared to today's grades. Using UM-Flint as an example: Why has the grade point average (GPA) only increased ¼ point in 20 years given that much time for academic process delivery improvements and huge technological advancements? My grades possibly went from B's to A's just by being able to write a 25-page term paper accessing peer-reviewed full-text journal articles using my computer at home instead of the library. At the same time, UM-Flint educators were diligently driving to improve learning process outcomes.

In other words, any grade improvement or increase could be a natural occurrence through time given those two factors alone. Perhaps something would be wrong if the GPA did not increase in 20 years. Processes should be continually monitored, altered if need be, and accordingly improve with time.

I am not saying that something unnatural with GPAs isn't occurring; however, I am saying that I have not seen any facts proving purposeful manipulations. Then again, maybe all this is just a misunderstanding of the definition of inflation. Thanks again for providing a venue for thought-provoking posts and replies.

At 11/04/2006 6:41 PM, Blogger Mark Perry said...

The problem is that SAT scores dropped nationally last year in America, with the lowest scores in 31 years among the graduating class of 2006. If SAT scores are declining over time, it suggests a decrease in the quality and preparedness of students attending college over time. But then why are average GPAs are at all-time high. So the issue is: If SAT scores are at an all-time low (suggesting a decline in academic quality), why are grades at an all-time high (suggesting an improvement in academic quality)?

At 11/05/2006 9:34 AM, Anonymous Walt G. said...

I guess if you accept these premises:

P1: SATs are valid measures of 17-year-old students' future success in college about 6 years later—no maturation improvement.

P2: High schools prepare students for SATs at the same rate that colleges prepare students for GPAs. High schools and colleges are equally good or equally bad. In other words, high schools prep for the SAT at exactly the same rate that colleges prep for GPAs.

P3: All low score high school SAT test takers that are counted attend college and receive GPAs

Then you can draw this logical conclusion:

SATs and GPAs are highly correlated and any discrepancy is grade inflation.

Maybe if we limit the study to SAT test students who attend college and first year college freshman GPAs only, we could determine scores much different between SATs and GPAs are grade inflation related. Much past college freshman, I am not sure we are still dealing with the same student emotionally or physically anymore.


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