Saturday, July 16, 2011

High School Grade Inflation: 1991 to 2003

Following up on a recent post on college grade inflation, there's also evidence that grade inflation is taking place at America's high schools.  In a study by the college entrance exam company ACT, it found evidence of significant grade inflation between 1991 and 2003 for high school students taking the ACT exam.  While ACT scores remained stable between 1991 and 2003, the chart above shows that the average high school GPA increased for every ACT composite score over that period.  From the study:

"Each point on each curve represents the average GPA for all students in 1991 and 2003 who earned that specific ACT Composite score.  The curve for 2003 is higher at every Composite score point than the 1991 curve, which is evidence of the existence of grade inflation.

However, the amount of grade inflation varies for different Composite score values: it is highest between the scores of 13 and 27 and steadily lower with Composite scores above 27. This is because students with high ACT Composite scores tend to have higher GPAs, and there is less room for these GPAs to increase over time because GPA cannot exceed 4.00. The average amount of grade inflation is about 0.25, or about one-quarter of one grade point on a grading scale with a range of 4 points (0.00 to 4.00). This means that, during the 13-year period under study, high school GPA for ACT-tested public high school graduates increased by about 6.25%—without an accompanying increase in ACT Composite score.

But this may understate the average amount of grade inflation when we consider that far fewer Ds and Fs are given in high school than As, Bs, or Cs. Data for the 13 years of this study show that the percentage of students with GPAs below 2.00 is less than 5 percent. This suggests that the practical range of high school grades is 2.00 (C) to 4.00 (A). So, with half of the possible grade range effectively eliminated from consideration, one-quarter of a grade point now represents not 6.25 but 12.5% of the range. Therefore, it may be more accurate to conclude that high school grades have inflated 12.5% between 1991 and 2003.

Conclusion: Due to grade inflation and other subjective factors, postsecondary institutions cannot be certain that high school grades always accurately depict the abilities of their applicants and entering first-year students. Because of this, they may find it difficult to make admissions decisions or course placement decisions with a sufficient level of confidence based  on high school GPA alone."

HT: Mike Donahue

18 Comments:

At 7/16/2011 11:23 AM, Blogger KipEsquire said...

This also omits the likely "dumbing down" of curriculum (i.e., both a higher grade and a weaker course).

Cf., the increasing popularity of the International Baccalaureate program.

 
At 7/16/2011 11:25 AM, Blogger Dr William J McKibbin said...

Grade inflation argues for moving instead to pass/fail evaluation standards.

 
At 7/16/2011 11:50 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

More evidence of deflation in Japan: academic levels of collge entrants into Japanese higher-ed are dropping. (pour on the inflated high school grades! :>)

 
At 7/16/2011 2:24 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

I prefer to go with standardized tests anyway. Too much subjectivity in grades--we all know that students who make nice get better grades.

 
At 7/16/2011 7:43 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Well what I find interesting is that I see a few bumper stickers on veichles of fellow employees saying, "proud of my honor roll student"...

Later on you find out the kid can't deal with simple fractions...

What does it all mean?

 
At 7/16/2011 8:31 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Juandos, sometimes it means you end up with someone like this:

James K. Galbraith earned his BA, magna cum laude, from Harvard in 1974 and Ph.D from Yale in 1981, both in economics. He is the son of renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

Jul 14, 2011

"Galbraith maintains a longstanding view that the U.S. economy needs more fiscal stimulus, i.e. more spending by Uncle Sam on infrastructure and green energy projects that create jobs today and have long-term benefits. (See: We Need a Second Stimulus Immediately, Says James Galbraith)

In addition, the professor recommends President Obama do something "bold" like lowering the retirement age, a seemingly radical plan Galbraith says will address the problems of both high unemployment among younger Americans and older Americans working longer and harder to make ends meet."

My comment: In effect, spend even more money on failed programs (which we don't have anymore anyway), and then retire productive workers (to reduce unemployment), since the failed programs didn't create enough jobs.

 
At 7/16/2011 9:13 PM, Blogger Chris Matheson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 7/16/2011 9:17 PM, Blogger Chris Matheson said...

In many high schools students are graded on homework which serves to boost GPAs. Moreover, teachers grade on participation, so often the grades given do not accurately reflect what the student knows. In addition, most courses carry the same weight. For example, a physical education course carries the same weight as a calCulus course when determining GPA.

 
At 7/17/2011 10:49 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

i'd be careful with this conclusion.

tests like the ACT and SAT have been "dumbed down" multiple times.

this data could just as easily support the thesis that grading is the same and the ACT has gotten easier.

 
At 7/17/2011 1:43 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Peak: "In addition, the professor recommends President Obama do something "bold" like lowering the retirement age, a seemingly radical plan Galbraith says will address the problems of both high unemployment among younger Americans and older Americans working longer and harder to make ends meet.""

Incredible! Yes indeed, that plan would reduce unemployment. My only question is, who would pay for it?

It's hard to imagine being excited about your new job when you're taxed at 80%.

This is another confirmation of the idea that a person can get too much formal education.

 
At 7/17/2011 3:19 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

You have to assume that the high school curricula were designed with the ACT as a measurable outcome and at the same rate over time to conclude any causation from this ACT/GPA correlation.

For example, grading criteria might have been changed to enhance graduation rates or as morganovich stated, the test could have been changed. If graduation rates increased from changing the grading criteria, the strategy was effective from a design point-of-view even if you don’t agree with the strategy. The questions in designing curricula: 1) what should you know at the end of the course and how will the material be taught? (Outcomes), 2) how will you measure actual learning to outcomes? (Assessment), and 3) what do you do if the assessment shows that the outcomes are not being met (Feedback Loop)?

High schools focusing on the ACT test as the main objective of their curricula probably need to eliminate all classes except math, science, English, and writing. If they are not willing to do that, it is a matter of degree and not kind how serious they are about their stated objective. You can tell how successful organizations are performing their mission by looking how well they measurably do what they say they will do.

 
At 7/17/2011 5:01 PM, Blogger juandos said...

PT! PT! PT!

Now that's an ugly future...

I mean I knew that Galbraith is a Keynesian but his total lack of common sense just floors me...

Listen to Dr. Walter Williams talk about luxury taxes and it downsides

 
At 7/18/2011 12:12 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Juandos, demand for luxury goods are more sensitive to price changes than normal goods.

 
At 7/18/2011 1:01 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Ron, yes, as Juandos said:

"Proud of my honor roll student"

"Later on you find out the kid can't deal with simple fractions."

 
At 7/18/2011 10:59 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"demand for luxury goods are more sensitive to price changes than normal goods"...

Exactly right Ron H and there in lies the beginnings of the toppling of the economic dominoes...

I remember what happened to the ship building business in both Wisconsin and Louisiana when that so called luxury tax was passed in '90 or '91...

It wasn't only yachts that got tagged with the tax, working boats also got tagged...

Lots of good paying jobs for ship fitters, pipe fitters, iron workers, sheet metal workers, electricians, and so on disappeared and then we got a real good lesson in 'trickle down' economics...

 
At 7/18/2011 12:54 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

juandos: "Exactly right Ron H and there in lies the beginnings of the toppling of the economic dominoes..."

Did you mean "Exactly right Peak..."

You must need new glasses. Peak & I look nothing alike. :)

 
At 7/19/2011 1:30 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Did you mean "Exactly right Peak...""...

You're right...

Actually I have a pair of cheaters and I have to remember to take them with me to renew my driver's licence...:-)

Sorry Peak...

 
At 7/19/2011 2:11 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Actually I have a pair of cheaters and I have to remember to take them with me to renew my driver's licence...:-)"

Before I wore glasses full time, I would make good use of my long wait time in line at DMV to memorize the eye chart, so my weaker right eye could pass.

 

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