Social Issues / Grade Inflation
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Autor: anton 15 March 2011
Words: 1622 | Pages: 7
In this paper we will examine the common belief that grade inflation exists and the reasons be hide it. We will show that not only do students worry about getting a high grade but the professor feels pressure to give good grades in fear of not gaining tenure due to poor student evaluations. This example along with several others hopefully will show the existence of grade inflation and the need for corrective action.
Grade Inflation, is it a problem? Letâ€™s start with a mind boggling statistic, fewer then 20 % of all college students receive grades below a B-minus, according to a study released by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Letâ€™s go one step further when a report found that eight out of every ten Harvard students graduate with honors and nearly half receive Aâ€™s in their courses. Do you think that grade inflation might be a problem?
Are todayâ€™s college students just smarter and better prepared? Not according to the SAT scores from the past 30 years. â€œThe SAT scores of entering students have declined, and fully a third of freshman are enrolled in at least one remedial reading, writing or math courseâ€ (Merrow, 2003, p.13a).
Are todayâ€™s college students working harder? It doesnâ€™t appear to be since a study by the National Survey of Student Engagement (2003) uncovered that not even 15 % of students study the recommended two hours per one hour of class time.
Grade inflation raises all grades to the top which makes it very difficult to use grades as a form of judgment. All students appear to be above average which prompts recruiters and employers to have to consider other forms of evaluation. Other evaluation methods may exclude an excellent student, who worked above and beyond to receive their grade, because they do not know the â€œright peopleâ€ or are not as out going as others. The loss of â€œaverageâ€ shows that professors do not set their own criteria any more but adapt to the students expectations. The method of students evaluating non-tenured professors has created a problem that many fell is the biggest reason for the rapid increase in grades. Professors who can be dismissed at any time feel that they need to be lenient because they know that bad evaluations from students may ultimately cost them their jobs. The professor adopts the philosophy of â€œif you donâ€™t hassle me, I wonâ€™t ask too much of youâ€ (Birk, 2000). Being a tough marker is not compatible with a good evaluation, no matter what anyone says.
Grade inflation lies at the new cultural roots of our society.
The thickest of these roots is the "kinder, gentler" way in which we have come to deal with young people in general. We more or less eliminated all forms of corporal punishment when they were very young, (a good thing, of course) and tried "suggesting" that kids be self-reliant and enterprising. (We were surprised when they sometimes didn't take our suggestions to heart.) This continued in high school and into college.
We coddled them, told them how wonderful they were, how everyone was a winner, etc. Now that high schools rarely hold students back, students whiz through with minimum effort. This has led to two kinds of student, often within the same person: a lazy, narcissistic student, used to getting good grades with relatively little effort, and an ill-prepared student.
Narcissism results when someone begins to internalize the public relations campaign we build up around them in order to get them into good colleges. We have them do activities to get them into college, and the students undertake them for no other reason then to get them into college. The intrinsic worth of whatever community service they're doing couldn't mean less to them. Narcissism also ultimately means that one's moral compass doesn't work as well. Guilt about stealing a test? Hey, I gotta do what I gotta do. If I flunk, my parents (who are financing this) will kill me.
Students today also impress me with their cynicism about education, which they regard as a rigged game to be gotten around. A liberal education is simply not important to them. The whys of philosophy, the pleasures of literature, the rigors of science take a back seat to such questions as: How do I learn skills that will get me a high paying job? Students are so caught up in grades that they donâ€™t realize how unimportant they are once out of school. They want the good life, the life their parents have. But they don't want to be "chumps" or "nerds" and work too hard. That wouldn't be "cool." Thatâ€™s why more then a third of students said that they would drop out of school if it didnâ€™t help their job chances.
Students need to understand that it is not the grades that matter but their involvement in their studies, campus life and surrounding activities. This concept is known as â€œengagementâ€ which leads to â€œdeep learning,â€ or learning from understanding (Merrow, 2003, p.13a). Deep learning is the notion that you understand and will retain the material even though you might not get the highest grade. Your knowledge will stay with you, as apposed to the knowledge of someone who crammed the information the night before and received a higher grade then you. Grades have become more important to the student then the actual knowledge they are supposed to be receiving.
The other part of all of this is that they are ill-prepared. I hope it is not just I who notices that students no longer possess knowledge I consider basic to being a well informed citizen: who the vice-president is, who Shakespeare was, how to do simple multiplication and division. (And these are kids from upper middle class homes!!) Let's face it: young people of a generation ago did know these things, and might have been the first in their families to go to college. They faced strict-marking professors in colleges not so dependent upon their tuition. One bad semester and it was goodbye, Charlie. It is now almost impossible to be thrown out of private college; at 35,000 dollars or more per year, private colleges know two things: one, they can ill afford to kick out weak students, and two, those students have many other colleges to choose from.
Are there other root causes? Certainly. There is another big reason for grade inflation, and it has to do with the better side of human nature. As college becomes more and more expensive, every professor realizes that the C or C- that he/she gives an impoverished student can mean the difference between retaining or losing a scholarship essential to remaining in school. Professors don't want to see low-income students leave college, so they look the other way, and grade more generously.
Harvey Mansfield(2001) said that â€œ When grade inflation got started, in the late 60â€™s and early 70â€™s, white professors, imbibing the spirit of affirmative action. Stopped giving low or average grades to black students and, to justify or conceal it, stopped giving those grades to white students as well.â€ Although Mansfield has no facts or figures to prove his claim, he refers to his many years on the Harvard faculty to substantiate his theory.
What should we do? Princeton and Harvard have made recent attempts to address the grade inflation issue, like putting a limit on the number of A grades they give or changing the GPA calculation. These two strategies have shown some success in reducing the amount of Aâ€™s given.
We need to change the CULTURE of education. That means changing what's important. Right now, risk is not an important part of the equation of taking a class. Students need to be reminded that if they don't study, they risk doing poorly. They need to understand that parties and a social life may be important to them at the moment, but that they remain a distant second to schoolwork. Colleges need to grin and bear through a few years of angry, flunking students and toughen up their assessment of student progress.
Eventually, the parents who pay with tuition, and the students who pay with intellectual labor, will come around and embrace more rigorous standards. With such standards, everyone wins, even the kid who gets a C in a tough course, though he tried his best. It requires mentioning the unmentionable: that effort alone should not guarantee excellence. Perhaps it should guarantee passing, but certainly not the granting of an A. We need to be supportive, have learning centers, remedial math and writing programs, but at the end of the semester, substandard work should be returned with a grade less than C. Character, both of the intellectual and moral kind, can only be developed through the possibility of success AND failure. That way, success is all the sweeter.
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Harvard Education Letter. Retrieved November 20, 2006. From
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