Lake Woebegone Grade Inflation?

Posted by on May 6, 2010 6:22 pm
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Categories: Column 3

Remember that line from Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average? Seems that fiction is becoming reality in many American schools. I read about this idea in an email from Scholastic for school leaders. A recent article in the Teachers College Record reported data from 160 colleges and universities, showing that grading at these schools is easier than it was before. The average GPA in public and private colleges is between 3.0 and 3.3. About 70% of college freshmen think that their ability (academically) is above average – which might explain why students drop out when confronted with more rigorous work demanded by professors on the college level.

Many veteran teachers might say that they have become easier graders over the years for a variety of reasons. Students may not be as likely to do homework anymore. Some educators feel that pressure from parents or even school/district administration not to give lower grades is very strong. Maybe better grades make a class or school look better. In any case, an average grade today is a “B” and no longer a “C.” (Just ignore that line on the report card that says a “C” is average.) Grade inflation is a fact these days in many places. Do students really know more now, or are we fooling ourselves? Time will tell, or Tim will tell you later.


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