Essay on Grade Inflation
The phenomenon of grade inflation is affecting the quality of education throughout the country. Most of the students- at every level including high schools, colleges, and universities- are receiving higher grades to which everyone is not entitled to receive. Grade inflation is similar to the concept of inflation in which price of commodities rise, impacts students, instructors, their parents, and standard of education. Several studies made in this regard confirm that grade inflation is a reality and a fact. The problem of grade inflation is continuously increasing compared with the past.
Grade inflation a Common Phenomenon Compared with the Past
Several studies confirm by making comparison of grades being currently obtained by the students with the grades obtained in the past that educational institutions are deliberately awarding higher grades to their students. Partial motive of awarding higher grades is market factor in which their students become competitive while applying for a job or moving to the next level of education. (Bok 211) Today, schools, colleges, and universities are using grade patterns in which students get higher grades for the similar quality of work being done by the students in the past and getting low grades. It means that it has become easier now to get higher grades like 'A' than in the past.
A general perception among parents and students is increasingly developing that by paying more tuition fees, students should be assigned higher grades. This phenomenon is similar to paying higher price for a product and getting maximum benefits from it. Furthermore, lower grades are also non-competitive in the marketplace. Grade inflation has significantly impacted those colleges and universities that have set high standards of education. (Cohen 401) Students with higher grades which they do not deserve meet the stringent criteria and students getting real grades are left behind. Grade inflation shows that students today are less educated than in the past.
Grade inflation in today's education has made it difficult to discriminate best students from very good and very good from good. Awarding unduly higher grades has resulted in the loss of morality among teachers. (Bain 76) For getting best results to show their performance, teachers award better grades than deserved so the main focus of faculty is their performance and not teaching. (Bok 209) It is pertinent to mention that one of the most important responsibilities of faculty is to evaluate the work of their students. For making justified and real evaluation, faculty members should develop perfect understanding of the grading system. Failure to do so can result placing students in unjustified grades. However, faculty members, at the same time, should have the autonomy of assigning grades which they think appropriate. As such, there should be a delicate balance to be maintained between understanding grading system and the autonomy of assigning grades as feasible.
Grade Inflation Creates Misconceptions about Quality of Education System
The phenomenon of grade inflation is believed to gain momentum in the decade of 1960s. The significant rise in grade inflation took place in 1980s when most of the private educational institutions adopted the aggressive policy of assigning higher grades compared with public institutions. The issue of grade inflation, therefore, is continuously aggravating creating misconceptions about educational system as a whole. Research made in this regard reveals that public schools and colleges are awarding GPA mostly around 3.0 while almost all students in private institutions receive GPA higher than 3.3. (Hunt 174) It means that the issue of grade inflation is prevailing more at private schools, colleges, and universities compared with public educational institutions.
Problem of grade inflation aggravates when student at the time of admission are aware that at the end they will be getting at least a B+ grade. Resultantly, most of them do not strive hard and do not make their best efforts in the studies affecting the overall quality of studies. This approach has developed among students for the last two decades or so and it was non-existent prior to that. Students in the contemporary age are aware that by spending money on education they will be successful in getting desired grade with minimum of efforts and with maximum of ease. Academic success, today, depends more on grade points and less on knowledge. In the current education system, grades do not exhibit knowledge base rather they make students want to please their teachers. (Fraber 385)Getting higher grades easier mean that students are spending less time on their studies compared with past and giving more time on other objectionable activities like addiction to drugs or alcohol. Therefore, the increasing factor of grade inflation is not only impacting quality of education but also creating different other social problems. Non-relevance of assigned grades with the standardized performance required for that particular grade shows the declining quality of education. Grade inflation has increased the importance of specific standardized examinations such as 'LMAT, GMAT, or MCAT' which are required to assess the real abilities of students even they have cleared the regular examinations. (Rudolph 287)
As mentioned above, several market forces seem to favor assigning high grades eventually supporting the phenomenon of grade inflation. Students getting real grades will be at disadvantage and non-competitive while competing with the students having non-justified high grades. When these students enter practical life by serving in business firms, teaching children, and providing social services etc, they have not developed the required set of skills and not acquire necessary knowledge needed to perform their duties.
Arguments against Grade Inflation
A segment of scholars believe that getting 'A' grade requires same efforts by the students as in the past and no term 'grade inflation' exists. This segment of scholars believe that requirements of schools and colleges have not entirely changed implementing standards that were set in the past for evaluating abilities or judging knowledge of students. In case grades of most of the students are higher compared with the students in the past is not a justification to prove that students getting 'A' grade were not evaluated properly. Students are submitting their assignments regularly, taking their examinations as usual, and attending schools and colleges as previously done by the students. (Cohen 155) Therefore, getting 'A' easier today compared with the past means that the knowledge base of students have increased as technology has gigantically supported to broader the vision and knowledge of students. Especially, with the advent of internet, students gain more knowledge in less time means they have to make fewer efforts today as more time was required in the past to acquire knowledge. (Johnson 143) Moreover, educational institutions in today's world have designed student-friendly systems and allow them more choices according to their aptitude as well as availability of time. It means that getting 'A' grade is also not easier today as it was in the past.
The paper has presented an overview of the term 'Grade inflation'. Most of the students- at every level including high schools, colleges, and universities- are receiving higher grades to which everyone is not entitled to receive. It is believed that getting higher grade like 'A' has become much easier than in the past. Arguments on both sides of the issue have been presented in the paper. However, by analyzing arguments on both sides, it can be asserted that it is easier to receive an 'A' in today's college courses rather than in the past.
Bain, Ken What the Best College Teachers Do Harvard University Press, 2004, p. 76
Bok, Derek Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should be Learning More Princeton University Press, 2007, p. 209
Bok, Derek Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education Princeton University Press, 2004, p. 211
Cohen, Arthur The Shaping of American Higher Education: Emergence and Growth of the Contemporary System Jossey-Bass, 2007, p. 401
Farber, Jerry A Young Person's Guide to the Grading System Student as Nigger, 1969, p. 385
Hersh, Richard Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, p. 155
Hunt, Lester Grade Inflation: Academic Standards in Higher Education State University of New York Press, 2008, p. 174
Johnson, Valen Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education Springer, 2003, p. 143
Rudolph, Fredrick The American College and University: A History University of Georgia Press, 1991, p. 287
A FRIEND, teaching a class of 20-year-olds at an ivy-league university, recently did something controversial. While grading a stack of essays she gave the ones that, while well-written but offered mediocre or confused arguments, a grade B. This incited much distress and she received many angry emails. Students demanded re-grades or rewrites; one suggested that she was unable to understand the brilliant subtlety of his argument.
Grade inflation continues to persist at top US universities because of incentives. When I was a graduate student at the same university, I had every incentive to give as high grades as possible. The standard I generally imposed: average deserved a B+/A-, exceptional an A, below average B, and appalling B-. If some one showed up late to an exam and scribbled some gibberish that would translate to a C-.
Often busy, overwhelmed with my research, I had no time for unhappy undergraduates telling me that I was now to blame for the inevitable rejection from a top-five law school, so thwarting a potentially meaningful and rewarding career as a corporate lawyer or investment banker. Far easier to give out As. The professor, usually complicit in, and often encouraging, grade inflation, also did not want to be bothered with such tedious complaints. He also had a research to do.
To be fair to the students, grade inflation becomes a vicious cycle. The standard I applied is not unusual. When students do receive a B grade for mediocre work, their peers will get an A- for similar calibre work from another professor. Their B now suffers by comparison. Ironically the better the university you attend, the more pressure graduate students and professors are under to do quality research, and the more meaningless good grades become.
I did my undergraduate work in the UK, where grade inflation is less of a problem. Exams are double marked, meaning not only your professor, but a professor at another university, grades your exams. This is meant to ensure consistent marking across universities. Also, having two professors read your exams means students will not be so quick to question the validity of their grades. While high marks have become more common in the UK, first class honours still has some meaning.
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