Paul L. Caron

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Real Problem With Grade Inflation

Following up on Monday's post, The Decline And Fall Of Grade Deflation At Princeton:  Chronicle of Higher Education, The Real Problem With Grade Inflation:

For about a decade, Princeton University took a controversial stand against grade inflation, asking academic departments to limit the number of A-range grades they awarded. The policy was meant to standardize grades across disciplines and give students a realistic picture of their performance. And at least to some extent, it worked: The fraction of A’s awarded dropped, though A’s and B’s remained the most frequently-used grades.

Even so, the university changed course in 2014, citing a host of negative side effects on athletes, members of ROTC, the mental health of students over all — and the university’s reputation.

Since the reversal, student grades have been rising again, according to an analysis published in The Daily Princetonian, a student newspaper, this week. ... It quotes Paul N. Courant, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, who has studied grade inflation. ...

The Chronicle followed up with Courant — who has also served as Michigan’s provost — to hear what other colleges might learn from Princeton’s experience. He described the forces that drive grade inflation, why students care so much about their grades, and what colleges might do differently. ...

You’ve studied grade inflation. What causes it?
The pressures that face faculty members in grading all tend to be in the direction of being just a little softer this year than we were last year. The students like it, and there's some evidence that they give higher teaching evaluations for courses that grade a little bit easier. And there's really nothing to prevent it. Just like real inflation, grade inflation happens when you print money. And it's a kind of money — satisfaction — that the faculty is in a position to print. ...

I still would very much like us to go to the law schools, go to the employers, and find out how the grades are actually used. It would be extremely useful if we could convey more information to the students and to the faculty about what grades actually do in people's lives, before we give in and spend so much energy trying to get good grade-point averages.

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"I still would very much like us to go to the law schools, go to the employers, and find out how the grades are actually used."

How is this even a question? It's used like this: "If your grade is a X.X or higher, we will consider you. Otherwise screw off. And these employers - consultancies, law firms, banks, tech companies - determine whether one has an upper-middle class (or better) life trajectory or gets to compete with me for the opportunity to be a telemarketer or whatever.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 30, 2020 9:10:45 AM