Sunday, May 27, 2012

Today's Grade-Inflated, Lake Wobegon World; Letter Grade of A Now Most Common College Grade

In 1960, the average undergraduate grade awarded in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota was 2.27 on a four-point scale.  In other words, the average letter grade at the University of Minnesota in the early 1960s was about a C+, and that was consistent with average grades at other colleges and universities in that era.  In fact, that average grade of C+ (2.30-2.35 on a 4-point scale) had been pretty stable at America's colleges going all the way back to the 1920s (see chart above from GradeInflation.com, a website maintained by Stuart Rojstaczer, a retired Duke University professor who has tirelessly crusaded for several decades against "grade inflation" at U.S. universities).
By 2006, the average GPA at public universities in the U.S. had risen to 3.01 and at private universities to 3.30.  That means that the average GPA at public universities in 2006 was equivalent to a letter grade of B, and at private universities a B+, and it's likely that grades and GPAs have continued to inflate over the last six years. 

Grade inflation is back in the news, with a Twin Cities Star Tribune article today "At U, concern grows that 'A' stands for average."

"A University of Minnesota chemistry professor has thrust the U into a national debate about grade inflation and the rigor of college, pushing his colleagues to stop pretending that average students are excellent and start making clear to employers which students are earning their A's.

"I would like to state my own alarm and dismay at the degree to which grade compression ... has infected some of our colleges," said Christopher Cramer, chairman of the Faculty Consultative Committee. "I think we are at serious risk, through the abandonment of our own commitment of rigorous academic standards, of having outside standards imposed upon us."

National studies and surveys suggest that college students now get more A's than any other grade even though they spend less time studying. Cramer's solution -- to tack onto every transcript the percentage of students that also got that grade -- has split the faculty and highlighted how tricky it can be to define, much less combat, grade inflation."

MP: As one University of Minnesota undergraduate student explained the rising GPA trend when evaluating a professor known as a rigorous grader, "We live in a grade-inflated world."  That University of Minnesota anthropology professor Karen-Sue Taussig suspects that today's "grade-inflated world" can be traced to the growing cost of a college degree, i.e. today's "tuition-inflated world." As Taussig told the Star Tribune, "They're paying for it, and they worked really hard, and they put in time, and therefore they think they should get a good grade."

Last year, Professor Rojstaczer and co-author Christopher Healy published a research article in the Teachers College Record titled "Where A Is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading, 1940–2009." The main conclusion of the paper appears below (emphasis added), and is illustrated by the chart below showing the rising share of A letter grades over time at American colleges, from 15% in 1940 to 43% by 2008. Starting in about 1998, the letter grade A became the most common college grade. 

"Conclusion: Across a wide range of schools, As represent 43% of all letter grades, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. Ds and Fs total typically less than 10% of all letter grades. Private colleges and universities give, on average, significantly more As and Bs combined than public institutions with equal student selectivity. Southern schools grade more harshly than those in other regions, and science and engineering-focused schools grade more stringently than those emphasizing the liberal arts. It is likely that at many selective and highly selective schools, undergraduate GPAs are now so saturated at the high end that they have little use as a motivator of students and as an evaluation tool for graduate and professional schools and employers."

MP: The connections among "grade inflation, "tuition inflation," "college textbook inflation," and exponentially rising student loan debt are important.  Perhaps students find it easier to accept rising tuition, higher textbook prices (many selling for $200-300 now), and $25,000 in average student loan debt if they at least graduate with mostly As and a GPA above 3.0?  Even if they can't find a job, they can take pride in having "earned" an inflated GPA?  

52 Comments:

At 5/27/2012 9:05 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

C is average. However, top schools normally don't admit average students.

 
At 5/27/2012 9:29 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

I suspect, students from affluent families (which increased as a percentage of U.S. households) can afford a quality pre-college education and are more likely to attend private colleges than public colleges.

The demand for top schools likely increased faster than the supply of top schools.

 
At 5/27/2012 9:49 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

When I was in grad econ, at CU-Boulder, which was a very competitive program, you needed at least a B to pass each class and at least a 3.0 to graduate.

However, so many students failed to get at least a B that the econ department lowered a passing grade to B-, although you still needed at least a 3.0 to graduate.

If you couldn't get at least a B in all the core classes, you couldn't graduate, and many students had to take those classes over again. Also, many had to change their fields of specialty, or take the classes over, which was expensive.

 
At 5/27/2012 10:13 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Interesting to note that the inflection point on the graphs appears to be 1964. A grades begin to ascend and D grades degrade significanly.

Why 1964? This was the year that Baby Boomers starting graduating from high school. I am a Baby Boomer and believe our elders doted on us. The result could have been the crash in Ds and the boom in As, as more Boomers matriculated from high school.

 
At 5/27/2012 10:17 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Buddy, avoiding Vietnam was a great motivator, for some, to stay in school.

 
At 5/27/2012 10:17 AM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

The inflection point also might have been related to the Vietnam War, and professors giving higher grades to help students get college deferments?

 
At 5/27/2012 10:24 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Peak and Professor,

Yes, more students in higher ed, and higher grades to keep them there seems quite plausible.

 
At 5/27/2012 10:44 AM, Blogger JakeW said...

The increase in college students immediately came to mind as the explanation for grade inflation; however, rising tuition seems plausible as well. If tuition is an explanatory variable, didn't tuition really take off in the '80s? There does seem to be a divergence taking place in that graph at about 1988.

 
At 5/27/2012 11:13 AM, Blogger Krishnan said...

Most universities (and administrators) have stopped pretending that their main responsibility is to educate - and to let the instructors award grades that reflect what the students learned and did in specific classes - Today, it is almost always about "retention" and "graduation rates" and "making it fun" and so on ...

The message sent to freshmen/freshwomen is that "College is Fun" and "You will have lots to do and meet new friends" - No university/admins want to send the message that a) they need to attend classes b) read c) write d) submit assignments e) get real feedback on their academic performance ... There is a reason the ratio of non teaching to teaching personnel keeps rising on campuses - The competition for the tuition (and grants, loans) dollars is fierce - so it has all become a matter of throughput - How many degrees can be awarded and how the university can rise in any/all national rankings.

Caveat Emptor - to those looking to actually get educated and to get real feedback on what they know and how they are progressing. Seek those lonely souls that do not follow the crowd and do the conventional - take those classes where the students indeed complain about the grading - ask to see which instructor has the lowest "GPA" (average of grades awarded multiplied by credit hours) - seek comments from students (good and bad) - Take charge - because no one is really concerned about your own progress (no matter what you hear)

 
At 5/27/2012 11:15 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

JakeW says: "...didn't tuition really take off in the '80s?"

Tuition in constant dollars at all college institutions increased 36% from 1981-91, 27% from 1991-01, and 32% from 2001-10.

http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76

 
At 5/27/2012 11:23 AM, Blogger Glenn Jericho said...

The upside of the second chart is that D and F grades have stayed relatively stagnant over time. Judging from that, the pass/fail ratio is about the same as it always has been, which ultimately is what counts. You either get your diploma or you don't. Not that I don't find grade inflation for those who do pass extremely troubling too...

 
At 5/27/2012 11:48 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

It seems, more Americans are getting graduate degrees, not just undergraduate degrees.

Current Population Survey:

"In 2010, 30 percent of adults 25 and older had at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 26 percent in 2000.

Eleven percent of the population attained an advanced degree in 2010."

 
At 5/27/2012 12:05 PM, Blogger Pulverized Concepts said...

Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" and the government programs and hiring that went with it created an explosion in college social science departments to fill those positions with graduate social workers, criminologists, psychologists, counselors and others with no possible employment in the private sector. Grade inflation was rampant in these disciplines even more so than the humanities because of the subjectivity involved. In mathematics, 2 + 2 will always equal 4, but the causes of crime and poverty, and the remedies, change with the latest academic fashions.

 
At 5/27/2012 12:51 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Some schools have alternate grading systems. Columbia University has schools with non number grades. The Business School gives Honors, High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, Fail and Incomplete.

If most other universities offer this grading scheme, then most students will graduate with Honors. An A just does not seem to have the impact anymore. :>)

 
At 5/27/2012 1:52 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Peak,

"Buddy, avoiding Vietnam was a great motivator, for some, to stay in school."

While that's certainly true, by 1965 being in school was no longer enough to avoid the draft.

 
At 5/27/2012 4:19 PM, Blogger G Gordon Worley III said...

Back when I was teaching College Algebra to freshmen, I had to spend a lot of time meeting with worried students who "needed" a B. Many degree programs, in an attempt to make sure only the "best" students get in to their program, choose to require students get Bs or even As in certain gen ed courses. While this seems reasonable on the face of it, the overall effect is to put us in a position where anything less than a B is effectively a failure, because the student will have to take the course again.

I always had the criteria for getting a particular grade fixed at the start of the semester, so I at least like to think that I didn't encourage grade inflation by making it easier to get a B, although it's definitely true that I made it easier for students who did poorly early on to make up for it later because a C is so bad for students. If it weren't for that, might I have let there be more Cs by not setting up methods of letting work later in the semester weight heavier than work early in the semester?

 
At 5/27/2012 4:46 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Some nice-looking charts, but completely beside the point. The question isn't whether grades have gone up or down, but whether they are a useful indicator of what students are learning, ie the rise might be fine if kids are actually learning more. And the biggest question, the one almost nobody raises, is whether the subjects themselves have any value, as it hardly matters whether you really aced algebra if algebra itself is useless in our computer age. College grades have always been useless, as an A at one school could equally well have been a C at another, because you had no way of knowing the difficulty of what was taught by one instructor vs another. Since grades are only useful for a job- those saying college is just to learn and better yourself should be find with getting rid of letter grades, as you don't need the grade if no employer is ever going to look at it- this only matters to the argument that a college education helps you get into the workforce.

The way job recruiters have handled this grade variance for some time is to simply take your GPA and the general reputation of your school as a preliminary input, then actually verify that you actually learned anything by asking mostly basic and a few intermediate questions about the subjects relevant to the job. If you can't answer those questions, you don't get the job, but of course nobody actually looked at the transcripts for each class, just the summary GPA that was largely useless. Online learning has a chance to create a much better and fine-grained certification system, as you already see starting to happen with badge systems on various websites, like Q&A sites which then make money by giving recruiters a better signal to hire off of. The notion that colleges will be able to navigate any of this massive change that is coming is foolhardy at best, so who cares how broken they are now? They are about to be destroyed.

 
At 5/27/2012 5:52 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Ron says: "...by 1965 being in school was no longer enough to avoid the draft."

Going to college to avoid the draft: the unintended legacy of the Vietnam War
David Card - 2001

"College attendance was considered a reason for draft deferment until 1969, when the draft lottery system was instituted. After 1969, the number of men attending college dropped sharply, since it was no longer a deferment."

 
At 5/27/2012 6:11 PM, Blogger JakeW said...

Sprewell raises an fair point. If grades are meant to reflect knowledge/performance in a given class, then it's possible that students are simply performing better now as opposed to professors handing out undeservedly high grades. I think this explanation is absolutely false, but how exactly does one show this is false? It seems like there's only anecdotal evidence of dumbed-down students. I think there are national high school testing standards but there's nothing of the sort for colleges.

How exactly would one test the level of knowledge of college students over time?

 
At 5/27/2012 6:53 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Jake says: "How exactly would one test the level of knowledge of college students over time?"

How about the creation of the knowledge economy in the Information Revolution by former college students?

 
At 5/27/2012 6:58 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Jake says: "How exactly would one test the level of knowledge of college students over time?"

Graduate Recond Exams (GREs) might be a "test". :>)

 
At 5/27/2012 11:19 PM, Blogger JakeW said...

^

Maybe, but I bet the GRE difficulty is adjusted over time so that the test average is constant. I just did a cursory Google search for historical GRE test scores and I couldn't find anything.

 
At 5/28/2012 1:57 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Peak.

"College attendance was considered a reason for draft deferment until 1969, when the draft lottery system was instituted. After 1969, the number of men attending college dropped sharply, since it was no longer a deferment."

My comment was based on personal experience. I wonder what Mr. Card's sources are?

 
At 5/28/2012 6:47 AM, Blogger www.pointsandfigures.com said...

Davidson College in North Carolina isn't suffering from grade inflation. As a matter of fact, there is no group work there and a strict honor code. But they are a statistical outlier.

 
At 5/28/2012 8:10 AM, Blogger technogypsy said...

Any information on how it varies by major? A lot of science majors I know seem to get high Cs low Bs.

 
At 5/28/2012 9:01 AM, Blogger The Teacher said...

Do not blame the schools in America for this problem. It started more than a century ago and like an ignored malignant tumor refused to stop growing.

Grade inflation and dummying down the curricula is a byproduct of the self-esteem movement where parents focus on building a false sense of self esteem in their children. To achieve this goal, these same parents put pressure on the schools to inflate grades and make the work more fun by dummying down the curricula.

The self esteem movement started in the 1890s as a topic in books and discussion, and by the 1920 - 1930s had grown to a serious topic of discussion across America.

In the 1960s, the self-esteem movement reached critical mass in the home where parents were raising their children to feel good about themselves and be happy all the time.

In the 1980s, the self esteem movement, due to pressure from parents, reached the public schools (K-12).

At first, teachers like me fought back and resisted but as the decades went by, the old guard died off and/or retired and younger teachers taught to value building a false sense of self esteem in their students replaced them.

Eventually, grade inflation and dummying down the curricula reached the college level from the public schools and the US is now reaping the rewards of this ill begotten parenting-teaching movement to instill a false sense of self esteem in children.

However, the result has led to tens of millions of young less educated adult narcissists instead that feel entitled to achieving their dreams of success without making the effort and then growing to resent their parents when reality bites. The final result, many younger citizens in America now embrace mediocrity over merit and feel that their parents and the government is responsible to insure their continued happiness.

 
At 5/28/2012 9:19 AM, Blogger JorgXMcKie said...

My personal experience was that I was "invalided out" of the Air Force in 1966 ["Physically unable to perform duties due to injury"] and then went to college. As a college student my draft classification was 1S. As an honorably discharged veteran it had been 4F.

When I inquired about the status change, I was informed that you were always given the lowest status to which you were entitled.

This seems to indicate that they would have "re-drafted" me as an injured, discharged vet before drafting me as a college student. Hmmmm.

 
At 5/28/2012 9:22 AM, Blogger SDN said...

I see that no one has had the stones to go there, so I will: you are looking at the natural results of Affirmative Action.

When any student who can claim membership in an Official Government Victim Group can scream "RAAAAACISM" (or sexism, homophobia, etc.) at any teacher who doesn't give them a good grade, and literally make a Federal case out of it, what teacher is going to resist? Especially since 90%+ are Leftists who came up with the idea in the first place.

How many MORE Elizabeth Warrens are there who claimed to be OGVG members? No one would dare question it. And if you did, what standard would you use? Of course, the old Democrat standard of "one drop" could apply. What represents "one drop" of homosexual? There's a reason the phrase "lesbian until graduation" has entered the lexicon. We have created an intolerable situation in the name of "tolerance".

 
At 5/28/2012 2:32 PM, Blogger Zimri said...

SDN, I can go further. The fact - and it is a fact - that American-born black students are let in with lower IQs than the IQs of the rest of the matriculating class was my first thought as well. It starts with the (starkly) different SATs of "African-Americans" and everyone else; and then you have to figure that even the SATs nowadays do not correlate as closely with IQ as they did up to the mid 1990s.

Other ethnicities - well, mainly just one - also benefit from Affirmative Action, so I'll use the initials for Affirmative Action in what follows.

The first dodge the colleges tried was to ghetto the AA students into Rhubarbrhubarb Studies and similar bogus majors. Fake courses, obviously, offer fake GPAs.

But it has panned out that these bogus courses have drawn in lazy, but social-climbing, students of other races. They don't *major* in this nonsense; they just pepper their transcripts with them.

One engineering major takes real subjects and gets out with a 3.0. His fratboy buddy doesn't do too well at the math; but makes sure to pick up some "Contemporary Culture" with the AA crowd. And now we have two engineers out there with the "same" grade. Which one would you hire? Whose bridge would you rather drive on?

I say that the best policy is to offer two entirely different scales of GPA: one for AA, one for the rest of us. Mark each class, as well, with two different scales of credit-hours: the full amount for the standard, but for the AA courses, those only count as - let's go traditional here - three fifths of a real course. And to make sure that the AA students can graduate after three fifths of the credit hours needed.

Don't like it? End AA entirely.

 
At 5/28/2012 4:42 PM, Blogger Thomas Hazlewood said...

Looking for a starting point for grade inflation? Try 'Diversity'. The more unqualified, but 'diverse', students in attendance, the more grades have to be massaged to maintain grade levels.

Keep in mind, of course, that 'diversity' only exists for certain races and nationalities...Asians, having demonstrated no need of grade inflation, are, therefore, actually discouraged from attending many leading universities.

 
At 5/28/2012 9:29 PM, Blogger ATK said...

We mus all be getting smarter!

 
At 5/28/2012 10:34 PM, Blogger CAFiorello said...

It's not just affirmative action, you know, it's also "student-athletes" and rich legacies who are admitted with lower SAT scores and lower expectations.

 
At 5/28/2012 10:44 PM, Blogger Claire said...

Do they still have Honor Rolls in colleges now? Are 80% of the students on one? That's really stupid.

 
At 5/28/2012 11:00 PM, OpenID jdow said...

Hm, usually when trying to equalize the grades the proposal was to take excess grades from the A students and give the excess to the bottom students in the class. This is the other approach, give 'em all A's thus debasing the currency er the value and meaning of an A grade.

 
At 5/29/2012 1:36 AM, Blogger Yael Kaynan said...

Another piece of the problem –a bigger piece, in my opinion — is that schools are more and more being run like businesses where the students are the customers. The problem with this model is that, unlike say manufacturing a product where a happy customer is one that gets a high quality product that functions as it should–they plunk their money down, walk off with the gizmo and it does its thing — education is not something you just pick up and walk off with. It requires input from the user and the user’s performance with the education gizmo is evaluated. What makes most students happy and satisfied customers is getting their ‘education product’ with the least effort on their part along with a good evaluation of their work. You can’t blame them, it is simple human nature. So when they evaluate courses, the “easy A” courses and “easy-going instructors” are given top marks and they pan the more difficult courses or ones which require more effort on their part. This puts non-tenured professors and adjunct lecturers in a very vulnerable position because if students are panning their courses, they are going to be out of a job. There is thus a high incentive to pass out A’s like candy and to make the courses as ‘painless’ as possible for the students. It becomes a popularity contest.

I know a lot of lecturers who drop reading assignments and make paper assignments easier and so forth as soon as a student raises a complaint that it is "too much" because they are worried about those end-of-term course evaluations.

 
At 5/29/2012 5:09 AM, Blogger Sayomara said...

I find two things interesting reading this article and the comments. First this level of grade inflation is in spite of 60% 6 year gradation rate for undergrads. And that is considered "Good" by most institutions of Higher Learning. Hell its only that high because of transfer students. When I was at the University of Iowa in the early 2000's The school hated transfer students but needed them to make there graduation rates look acceptable.
http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2008/february/020708graduation_rate.html
Look at these numbers and tell me if they aren't pathetic?

The second point no one here had talked about is the 60's is when idea of the well rounded liberal college education fell apart. With universities going from very clear course requirements to much more open requirements for what would meet standards.

There should also be a note on University ranking. The current ranking system used by groups like US News/World Reports is focus almost completely on Students going in and not at all on outcomes of those students.

That is why I find it so remarkable that when a full 40% of students fail to get degrees in 6 years you still have this level of Grade inflation.

 
At 5/29/2012 8:44 AM, Blogger M. James said...

I graduated from high school in '64 and attended one quarter of college. I was bored to tears, skipped my finals and joined the "peacetime" Army. I was in the Army when LBJ ordered combat troops to Vietnam. After three years and two Vietnam tours, I returned to college. In those three years, college became easier, much easier. Though I was still bored and did not graduate, I never knew of anyone flunking out. I believe the professors were loath to make anyone available to the draft. It was at that time the college administration noticed an added benefit: more students more money, easy grading, more students and so the cycle began. By the 90s, I was working for a Fortune 500 company and was appalled by the writing and critical thinking skills of recent college graduates joining the company. But, they sure did have high self-esteem. Somewhere along the line, colleges have become "Club Med Resorts", they are no longer places of education, but places of business. The students are the customers and the customers are "always right". Please the tuition paying customers and keep them in those seats. My 1964 high school education was superior to what the average State college is giving today.

 
At 5/29/2012 8:56 AM, Blogger shilkom said...

By definition, an "A" should be received by the top 7 or 10%; anymore than that is pure grade inflation. This all part of the "feel good" society, which is attempting to give young people "self-esteem" that they did not earn, and then when they get in the real world, they find out that the real world does not grade on the curve, and one must earn your self-esteem.

 
At 5/29/2012 10:38 AM, Blogger kokomoarnold said...

My experience as a 38-yr-old MBA student is similar: Grade inflation, and a shocking sense of entitlement from students, who, for example, would pretty much insist a professor cough up the test questions ahead of time.

 
At 5/29/2012 11:16 AM, Blogger Doctor Bob said...

As a now retired professor, I can say that all these comments are good and contribute to grade inflation. The inflation really started during the Viet Nam War. I have one student come to me AFTER grades had gone out, asking to do an extra project to raise his grade, saying that he had a low draft lottery number and if he could not get his semester GPA raised he would be called up. I had awarded him one of three D grades on his grade report! My response was that he was aware of his grades and hed he come in BEFORE the final exam I would have listened to him!

Grade inflation appears to be worst in the Liberal Arts. I think you would find much less inflation in the physical sciences, engineering, and agriculture.

There has always been large differences between universities as well. My undergraduate university - a Land Grant public university - required something like a 3.7 GPA to graduate with honors. I taught at a similar, though smaller, university which requires a 3.0 GPA to graduate with honors. Not much of an honor any more when grades have been so inflated.

 
At 5/29/2012 11:18 AM, Blogger Joe Davidson said...

Simple solution. Every transcript should not only contain the student's grade, but the average grade of the class.

That way employers can judge the validity of the grade.

 
At 5/29/2012 11:21 AM, Blogger Doctor Bob said...

By the way, I taught a senior/graduate course which required several science courses as background. The first day I told students I assumed that the poorest students had flunked out or had transferred to an easier curriculum, so I assumed the average grades would be something closer to B than C. I also informed them that both F and A had to be earned, but it was possible to earn either.

 
At 5/29/2012 11:45 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

The growth of the Pass/Fail option may have made a difference. It wasn't available when/where I went to college.

 
At 5/29/2012 9:37 PM, Blogger James Rovira said...

The real causes of grade inflation are primarily an over-reliance on adjunct and other untenured faculty who live and die by course evaluations, so inflate grades to get better course evaluations and thus preserve their jobs. Note that the rise in average grades increases with the reliance on untenured faculty members. Maintain the tenure system, expand the number of tenured faculty teaching courses -- in other words, provide faculty protection from administrators and students who only care about customer service -- and you'll see grade inflation come down. Nothing else will change it. There's a direct and well-established correlation between grade inflation and high course evaluations.

 
At 5/29/2012 9:40 PM, Blogger James Rovira said...

I'm curious of the data reflects a difference in graduate, upper, and lower division classes -- upper division and graduate courses are more likely to be taught by tenured faculty members. Since most gen ed courses fall under the rubric of the liberal arts (conceivably) and are most often taught by adjuncts I suspect this too contributes to the liberal arts/sciences divide.

 
At 5/29/2012 10:13 PM, Blogger J the K said...

One long comment has this phrasing: "recruiters a better signal to hire off of. " I would give that paper in my frosh class a D-. Two more like that, and a flunk.
But that was then; now I am finding top newspapers full of semi-literate words and phrases.
But then I found over many decades that student did well and did their work if they got D- for illiteracies...
J the K

 
At 5/29/2012 10:13 PM, Blogger J the K said...

One long comment has this phrasing: "recruiters a better signal to hire off of. " I would give that paper in my frosh class a D-. Two more like that, and a flunk.
But that was then; now I am finding top newspapers full of semi-literate words and phrases.
But then I found over many decades that student did well and did their work if they got D- for illiteracies...
J the K

 
At 5/29/2012 11:37 PM, Blogger Morgana said...

As a parent of a just-graduating high school student who is going on to college, I offer a different perspective. The SAT tests are harder now. Universities are much more difficult to get into due to the competition for a limited number of seats. My son had great grades (including 37 credits of college course work in high school, and try doing college work when you're 14) and top SAT scores. And so did everyone else. But there are still only a limited number of seats available. He did get into his first choice University, which is a very tough school but not an Ivy. He'll be competing for grades with students the top ten percent of the intelligence bell curve, students who know how to work hard because that's what it took to even take a seat in the courses. The professors generally don't grade tests on a bell curve these days, which is different from when my age group attended college. Grades are based upon points for the course work. Any teacher can tell the difference between an "A" paper and a lesser work. Because the students are smarter than the previous generations (look at the SAT scores and GPAs over the last three decades as proof) and work harder, there are more A and B grades.
My husband, a Duke graduate, would never get into Duke now if his high school grades and test scores were submitted as a new applicant.
Why is the college "C" no longer average? Because the bell curve is no longer applied nor should it be. It wouldn't reflect the actual caliber of the student's work.

 
At 5/30/2012 5:25 AM, Blogger Spicy Dijon said...

I was a student from 1995-2006, as I worked and had a family. During this time I attended CC, U, and Grad School.

I hold the terminal degree in my field, and teach in the program at the CC at which I started (as a returning student who had spent 10 years in the workforce after 3 years in college previously in a different field.)

I can say that unequivocally and exponentially, in my own classes since Jan 2007, students do less work, do more at the last minute (hence less refined work,) and are really PO'd when occasional attendance and little work gets them a failing grade.

I do NOT inflate grades. I have a rubric and a standard, and I use it. But I do feel that as each sorry year passes, I expect less and less based on what students produced the previous year.

What is occurring is sad, horrifying, and not in the best interest of anyone in the higher ed field, student, admin or faculty.

 
At 5/30/2012 8:42 AM, Blogger Lisa Ainsworth said...

College credit classes in High School are so dumbed down that some college will not even take them. High school should be where students learn the tools that will allow them to apply critical thinking skills in college. This is not happening as high school and this makes it impossible for professors to teach. Students (and families) are simply trying to aquire grades not skills. Until we stop seeing Yale stickers and LAX stickers on the backs of leased MBZ, I do not believe our society will value an education for what it really is. Education allows you to fight boredom for a lifetime. A real education gives a person self esteem and the ability to continue learning. The ability to become educated is invaluble. We are stealing this from future generations.

 
At 5/30/2012 8:47 AM, Blogger Lisa Ainsworth said...

Education at the High School level should only be "college level" for the few geniuses that skip to college. I only knew one person like this and spent my High School years (at an all girl college prep school) learning the skills that enabled me to learn at the college level. These "AP courses" are so dumbed down it disappointing. Struggling with learning is not the point. Memorizing biology with no writing or research is NOT college level. Education is not valued by much of our society. It is not a sticker to attach to the back of a previously owned BMW. It should allow a lifetime of interesting conversation, changing opinions and finally wisdom. Without this we will have a sick society. ooops we already do.

 
At 6/10/2012 1:39 AM, Blogger Phoebus.YC said...

To avoid any "inflation" (which is real) in grading students, I like the French system, which applies from high school (lycée) to grad degrees. Here is how:
In a country where "égalité" is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic AND the minds of every citoyen,
you're graded on 20 and 10/20 (rounded for 10.1/20) is a pass mark (rule of 'simple majority') -- not with honours, for sure, but you pass. 12/20 is considered good. 14/20 and 15/20, better. At 16/20 you're very good --without inflation. 17/20 and 18/20, you're EXCELLENT, but those marks have to be deserved and are very rare indeed.
However, at the baccalauréat, it is possible to get 19 or even MORE than 20 if to your 18/20 you gain marks from non compulsory subjects like music, arts, sports, etc. (whre you have to excell also, of course). Admitedly, those cases are very rare indeed : maybe 10 'genius' students on more than 600 000 bacheliers...
The interesting aspect of this "republican" system is that it is consistent since the 19th cent., so comparisons are easy to make. Of course, that does not mean that the exams are not easier today than they were in early 20th century...But since entrance examinations to 'Grandes écoles' are very competitive and elitist, standards are maintained at that level, as they are at Caltech, for instance.

 

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