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Grade Inflation

By Kevin Bryan

Getting the coveted A in school is viewed as an achievement, but it seems as though getting straight A’s is becoming increasingly common. When applying to top tier colleges, having a 4.0 is often essential to even enter the preliminary stages of consideration.

In fact, grade inflation is an acknowledged problem even throughout colleges. In a study of over 200 colleges, it was revealed that 40 percent of all grades given were A’s. The Dean of Undergraduate Education at Harvard University found that while the median grade at the school was an A-minus, the most common grade awarded to students was an A. However, grade inflation has been a problem for longer than one expects; grades in the A-range have been the most frequent grades given by colleges throughout the U.S. since 1997.

Grade deflation––grading the students through their performance in the class comparing to other students––appears to be the easy solution. However, teachers and professors are reluctant to employ this method because the success of the student is often linked to the success of the teacher. Pressures are strongest among untenured professors, who are afraid students will become increasingly displeased due to deflation. Consequently, the teachers may receive critical student reviews, be classified as a “tough grader”, and thus discourage students from taking their class the following year. A declining class size may signify to the school board that the teacher is incompetent, and can even cost the teacher their job. Even untenured teachers have pressures to inflate grades. Most teachers do not want to disadvantage their students with deflated grades if teachers in other classes award inflated grades. Some teachers choose to grade more leniently and give all students a good grade as it is less time consuming.

While teachers are pressured to inflate grades, this decision undermines the purpose behind having the grading system in the first place––to assess students in comparison with one another. One student who is truly unique may get drowned out by other students who may be academically inferior, but are still handed the A due to inflation. Therefore, stronger students are not rewarded for their hard work, but instead are discouraged from continuing to perform as well. Colleges are also forced into a difficult situation as they select applicants for the incoming class. Admission officers have to rely more heavily on standardized test scores and extracurriculars in order to discern a good student from a great one. Furthermore, students who are not in a high school that have an inflated grading scale are put at a severe disadvantage.

Students should be the main priority when it comes to selecting the method of grading. While it may be difficult to request a single teacher to stop inflating grades, if all teachers made a change all at once, the problem can be alleviated. Students should not have to fight an uphill battle to showcase their intelligence while others breeze through school. The more teachers and professors get on board to change grade inflation, the easier the transition to a more deflated grading scale will be for everyone, though to do so would likely be more difficult than it sounds.

Works Cited:

Clarida, Matthew Q. “Substantiating Fears of Grade Inflation, Dean Says Median Grade at Harvard College Is A-, Most Common Grade Is A | News.” The Harvard Crimson, 26 May 2017, www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/12/3/grade-inflation-mode-a/.

“How Grade Inflation Hurts Students.” Concordia University-Portland, 8 Oct. 2017, education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/how-grade-inflation-hurts-students/.

Joseph, Anita J. “The Case for the A-Plus | Opinion.” The Harvard Crimson, 16 Nov. 2009, www.thecrimson.com/article/2009/11/16/grade-students-grades-apluses/?utm_source=thecrimson.

Slalov, Sita. “How to Fix College Grade Inflation.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 26 Dec. 2013, www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/economic-intelligence/2013/12/26/why-college-grade-inflation-is-a-real-problem-and-how-to-fix-it.

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