Grade Inflation part 2

What is Grade Inflation?: The Student Perspective

At a time when there are serious concerns over America’s future ability to compete with other nations in the realms of science, technology, and business, these findings are particularly worrisome. An entire generation is being raised to think that they should have a comfortable life and a chance at a good job without having to be worthy of it. More than that, an entire generation is being raised without understanding the value of working hard and earning what they have. Out of vogue is “no pain, no gain”. Now, the mantra is “No pain, yet still gain”.

Students do not even see a problem with the current university culture. A study performed at the University of California, Irvine found that a third of students surveyed thought they deserved a B just for coming to class. Two thirds of the students felt that if they told a professor that they were trying hard, that should be factored into their grade.[11]

If grades no longer convey accurate information as to how much knowledge students have gained and professors are “dumbing down” their classes to secure good evaluations, what can a serious student who values education do to secure a good one? Make an effort to get a good education, despite what may be the prevailing culture in the modern American university. Grade inflation only means that students who haven’t work will be treated as if they have, but it doesn’t mean that a student who has worked learns any less. The more time and energy that a student dedicates to schoolwork, the more the gains of a college education increase. In the long run, effort pays off a lot more than trying to beg a good grade out of professors.

Fighting Grade Inflation at Traditional Schools

And there are ways of avoiding the issue of grade inflation completely. Some universities, such as Princeton, have taken dramatic action to reverse grade inflation, to great effect. For the academic year 2002-2003, 47.9% of grades given at Princeton were A’s. In academic year 2008-2009, only 37.9% of grades were A’s, the results of a new policy to limit the amount of A’s given to 35% of all grades.[12]

Other universities, such as Reed College, take novel approaches to measuring student performance that almost dispense with grades completely. At Reed, students are encouraged to focus on learning for its own sake, and schoolwork is given back to students with detailed comments, but without a letter grade. While letter grades are marked down for each course, students are not informed of their letter grade unless it is lower than a C, which is equivalent to a 2.0 at Reed.[13] As a result, Reed has avoided grade inflation, with the average GPA at Reed generally staying between 3.10 and 3.15 between 1989 and 2008.[14]

Online College Courses Resistant to Grade Inflation

Online college courses, because they are conducted impersonally, also avoid the most common cause of grade inflation: personal pressure from students. Because the courses are standardized and the students do not give course evaluations that determine eligibility for tenure, pressure to inflate grades is sharply reduced. Students who take online courses do so at their own pace and determine their own program of study, which removes the academic pressure that comes with competing to stand out against thousands of other students.

While grade inflation is an insidious problem in American universities, it can be offset by students who seriously commit to earning their grades in university. Professors also must be allowed to stand firm in their grading decisions without having to worry about appeasing students for the sake of evaluations. Universities should stand for providing the knowledge that the best and the brightest will need to make a better future, not pandering to those less able to stay in business. But until universities take the necessary steps, it’s up to those university students who care enough to put forth their best efforts toward academic endeavor.

[11] Roosevelt, Max. "Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes -" The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 17 Feb. 2009. Web. 05 July 2011. .

[12] Quiñones, Eric. "Princeton Achieves Marked Progress in Curbing Grade Inflation." Princeton University. 21 Sept. 2009. Web. 11 July 2011.

[13] "Guidebook to Reed | Evaluation of Students." Reed College. Web. 11 July 2011. .

[14] Rojstaczer, Stuart. "Reed College." National Trends in Grade Inflation, American Colleges and Universities. Web. 11 July 2011. .

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