Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Grade Inflation = Academic Fraud?

Soon college students will come home and present parents with their grades. To avoid delusion, parents should do some serious discounting because of rampant grade inflation. If grade inflation continues, a college bachelor's degree will have just as much credibility as a high school diploma.

The bottom line: To approach truth in grading, parents and employers should lower the average student's grade by one letter, and interpret a C grade as an F.

~Walter Williams' column "
Fraud in Academia"

19 Comments:

At 5/06/2009 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lowering a "C" grade by one letter would be a "D", not an "F".

Did the columnist attend University of Michigan?

 
At 5/06/2009 10:08 AM, Blogger Andy said...

Also, the 0.7 difference is 2/3 of a grade, not 1 grade. So a C would actually be a D+. Oh, well.

Incidentally, that means it's "impossible" to get an A under this system, as even an A+ becomes an A-.

Also note that GPA varies widely by major. For example at my undergraduate institution, some majors had average GPAs of around 3.5 while others were around 2.5.

 
At 5/06/2009 10:37 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

I'm not sure what grades really mean between different classes and times. I just turned in grades for 47 students yesterday. If the average grade for them was less than the average grade for last semester's class that was graded with the same criteria, is any grading variation due to them or me? If it's me, should the students suffer?

Maybe the increase of the last few years is largely due to technology—I know I am a much better college student in the 2000s than I was in the 1970s just because of the Internet. Yea, no booooring library! Even if it was not technology, I could easily chalk my better grades up to maturity and not grade inflation. Is the average age of college students today older than in the past? Strictly from a research point-of-view, I don’t think there is enough evidence in Williams’ article to draw a conclusion that a grade-trend-increase is primarily due to grade inflation.

 
At 5/06/2009 10:55 AM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

A guaranteed lifetime tenure for a professor might make the availability of previous tests very easy to access. The same or similiar test for many years would raise scores. A review every seven years of class standards for tenured professors might include: new tests every quarter?.

Our next presidential election might include campaign promises of guaranteed tuition and valedictorian status for all -- or at least a giant trophy for participating.

 
At 5/06/2009 11:17 AM, Blogger JimJinNJ said...

About grades--
Marty Nemko will appear tonight on Glenn Beck to review his claim that higer ed is the biggest scam in US history or something like that.

Second, teachers in my experience as a former psychometrician are completely ill-trained when it comes to grading in terms of validity, reliably. they talk about curves and 70% passing and add or take off points for attendance, extra projects, political correctness etc. these things throw the comparablity of grades within and between teachers, years and institutions completely out of comparability.

Art critics have more consistency.

 
At 5/06/2009 11:25 AM, Anonymous Rolo Tomasi said...

I'm sure grade inflation is a problem. However, not all universities follow Harvard's lead. At the UC Davis Econ department, where I attended, all undergrad courses where graded on a 2.7 curve. I don't think an across the board mental discounting of grades is going to solve the problem.

 
At 5/06/2009 12:47 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Strict curves sound great, but what do you do when 1/2 of the class scores 90% on a state-mandated, multiple-choice test? Sort by “A” to “C” alphabetically? Maybe random grade assignment using a dartboard? Personally, I think the instructor deserves a raise!

Does a Harvard "C" equal an "A" at a less prestigious university? If not, then, maybe everyone at Harvard is an "A" student compared to the general university student.

This whole grade subject is confusing because no one seems to agree what is being measured or how. If there is no fixed standard, there is no reliable or valid measurement possibility. For grade inflation over time today, you have to assume that the time past was the correct measurement and it was measured the same way then as now. Quite possibly, the people in the past suffered grade deflation. I knew there had to be a good reason for my “C”s in high school.

 
At 5/06/2009 1:17 PM, Blogger bobble said...

i can't speak for U of Mich. but my child attends the UCLA so i can offer an opinion there.

students accepted to UC berkeley or UCLA are all in the top 10% of their high school classes. so, why shouldn't a bunch of brilliant kids get good grades?

in california it has become near impossible to get into the UC system colleges, both academically and financially. to me, this is a bigger problem than grade inflation

 
At 5/06/2009 1:39 PM, Blogger Tara said...

This difficulty basically stems from a lack of standardization (e.g., the performance required for an A at one institution may only be a B at another, etc.). My undergraduate alma mater addresses this problem in a novel way: Beside each letter grade on my transcript is a listing of how many students were registered in the course, and how many received grades of A, B, C and F. Anyone reviewing my transcript instantly has some context about how well I performed compared to my peers. For example, they would know that a couple of the stronger grades I received weren't necessarily because I outperformed other members of my class, but because we ALL received an A that term... which gets back to the original grade inflation problem, but at least it is contextualized!

 
At 5/06/2009 1:55 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Tara,

Should you be judged by how well others do or on your personal performance measured against a set metric? You can't make the bulls-eye smaller because more people are excellent marksmen.

 
At 5/06/2009 4:54 PM, Blogger Robert Miller said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/06/2009 6:28 PM, Blogger 1 said...

"Lowering a "C" grade by one letter would be a "D", not an "F""...

Hmmm, YOU didn't read it correctly...

If the little 'tax deduction' is getting an 'A' what it really is is 'B' quality work...

Note exactly how that 'C' you are questioning was stated: "and interpret a C grade as an F"

So if the mighty little 'affliction' comes home from college today with a 'C' that means the 'affliction' is a failure but in the politically correct halls of the ivy league madrassas a "C" won't hurt the poor dear's feelings...

 
At 5/06/2009 6:47 PM, Anonymous Dr. T said...

The grade inflation problem is severely understated. Back in 1951, less than 20% of teens went on to college. Currently, over 60% of teens go to college. With all these additional, less intelligent and less qualified students ending up in college, one would expect mean GPAs to plummet, not rise.

For most colleges and most majors, a 4.0 GPA today means less than a 2.0 GPA in 1951. A moderately smart student can coast through college and get a 4.0. (My daughter is doing this.)

Most professors and instructors are rewarded for being easy graders and punished for setting high standards. (Flunking out students results in less tuition and government support money). Eight years ago I taught in the medical technology program at a state university. That program kept its high standards, and the average GPA was 2.7. For the rest of the school, the average GPA was 3.3. The head of the med tech program was continually being pressured to lower standards so more students would be attracted. It is worrisome that the administrative mentality is that college grade inflation is good.

 
At 5/07/2009 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"1"

Actually, "1", the author needs to return to school for some remedial grammar. Walter Williams stated, "To approach truth in grading, parents and employers should lower the average student's grade by one letter, and interpret a C grade as an F." There is an implied [therefore] between the words "and" and "interpret" based on his choice of sentence structure.

If he intended to convey YOUR interpretation he should have stated, "To approach truth in grading, parents and employers should lower the average student's grade by one letter. Furthermore, parents and employers should interpret a C grade as an F."

Further evidence that even those who complain about the quality of education are, themselves, guilty of lower standards.

 
At 5/09/2009 1:34 PM, Anonymous Dean said...

There are schools that have an A-B-C-F grading system. There's no D at my school. Maybe the writer is from one of those places.

 
At 5/09/2009 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, please. Like bobble pointed out, you might want to glance at the school's reputation. A highly selective school that only admits students with top grades and scores will have skimmed off the top of the graduating high school class. To then re-distribute the top decile into a regular Bell curve is not an adequate description of their academic performance. If I taught a continuing education class to a bunch of MD/PhDs and gave out grades, and everyone scored a 95% or better on a rigorous exam, is it really realistic to flunk a portion of the class? Get real.

 
At 5/10/2009 6:42 PM, Blogger BxCapricorn said...

I believe that professors do this so that the remaining students that attend on State scholarship programs, can continue to do so. Many programs require a ridiculously high GPA past the freshman year, for the scholarship to be maintained. The professors can thus maintain their institution's attendance numbers through higher grading. After all, college is a business, and numbers must be met.

 
At 5/10/2009 6:59 PM, Blogger 1 said...

"Further evidence that even those who complain about the quality of education are, themselves, guilty of lower standards'...

Well since English isn't your first language anon its going to be tough to explain it to you...

 
At 6/22/2009 4:55 AM, Anonymous Sujan Patricia said...

"If grade inflation continues, a college bachelor’s degree will have just as much credibility as a high school diploma." yes that's very true. Grade inflation, social promotion and academic fraud are not just rampant.

 

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