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More on Grade Inflation

January 7, 2012

My school, a for-profit private school, is but one such school in our area.  As a geographical consequence, we gently compete for students.  I am removed from the details of the sales-pitches and negotiations that go on with parents, but we seem to accept any and all.  So it is not unusual to have an under-prepared student with poor work habits suddenly show up in my class in, say, February.  These factors contribute to a difficult situation for both student and teacher, and when it comes to grades these students typically earn low marks.  (No comments about differentiation, please.)

What would you do if you were a parent in one of these cases?  Wouldn’t you want your son or daughter to go to the school that gives the highest grades?  What else are you paying for, really?  Character education is nice, but colleges don’t measure that (as far as you know).  Wouldn’t you send your son or daughter to a school that “informally guarantees” a minimum grade?  I have heard our competing schools give out nothing less than an 85, even though the grade scale is still out of 100.  That puts pressure on the competing schools to do the same — or even go one-better.  Grade inflation ensues.

Where does this end?  Are we institutions of education or car salesmen?  (There’s more info on grade inflation here.)

Teachers want to give a grade that reflects the student’s level of understanding.  To do otherwise makes a mockery of the profession.  Administrators claim to see the “bigger picture” by making the students more attractive to colleges.  A higher grade point average allows a lower SAT score as college acceptance criteria.  And if the student’s ticket to college is via athletics, should we allow a low GPA to limit his/her college choices?

On the other side of that coin: isn’t there another picture just as big?  Are colleges not finding more and more freshmen under-prepared and needing remedial work?  How could this be if the student had a 87 average in high school?  And don’t these same freshmen expect at least a B+ for little (or no) effort?  How is this preparing them for the realities of life after college?

So I put it to you: does grade inflation help or hurt students?  Do high school grades really matter that much?


From → Thoughts & Ideas

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