Grade inflation

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Anonymous:
Let me suggest a different spin on grade inflation:

I work with students who actually work hard. I've "inflated" their grades because I know it now matters what grades they get.

The importance of grades is a different situation from decades ago when elite private universities were mostly the private reserves of a wealthy white elite for whom grades did not matter. The idea that students worked harder in the past is a myth; that student simply had more time on his hands. Today's student is likely to be on financial aid and working many hours a week, as well as taking classes.

In the past, a student's family connections would provide access to success. Our current President with his C average at Yale is a fine example. Today, graduate and professional schools and potential employers care what grades you get. Any sympathetic teacher is likely to be aware of this and tend toward grading up, rather than down.

MEBioGuy:
I agree that grade inflation is rampant, but I would not consider an average of 78 percent on a midterm to be "inflated."  The test scores achieved by my students are reflective of their studies, as well as how I determine which questions are on the exam.  

From the first day of the semester, I remind my students that their grade is their responsibility, but because many of them are freshmen, I also provide them with information on how to succeed. I provide materials on developing good study habits and remind them (frequently!) that they need to do their readings before coming to class and to constantly review materials on a regular basis. If they don't live up to their responsibilities, then most likely they won't get a good grade.

My responsibility is to develop exams that can test the abilities of the students to meet the objectives of the course. Some exam questions may be easy, some moderately difficult, and some very difficult. I usually find that test scores will produce a bell curve, with the median score very close to the mean. I always have a couple of students who excel and a couple who fail. Most of the students fall between 73 and 85 percent. I always have students who complain that the exam is too hard. I even had one student who let me know that she thought one exam I gave was "mean"! I usually remind students that we went through the objectives and that they need to review their answers to see how they missed the objectives.  

In the end, stick to your principles, keep your cool, and remind students that their grade is reflective of achievement, not a gift.

Hey Nonny Mouse:
The idea that students worked harder in the past
is a myth; that student simply had more time on his hands. Today's student is likely to be on financial aid and working many hours a week, as well as taking classes.

I think that's something of a myth, too. I completed my B.A. in 1989. I was on financial aid and worked many hours a week in an office job. I also did my homework and accepted responsibility for whatever grades I earned. I never would have had the nerve to confront a professor and ask him/her why I wasn't given a higher grade. If I was unhappy with my grade, I resolved to do better next time.

What astounds me is the sense of entitlement many students seem to have now. The I'm-a-consumer attitude that suggests, "I pay to be here, I'm buying a degree, give me a good grade."

Afar:
In my opinon students tend to forget what the actual grading scale means. Earning a "C" means that you were average. The problem is that most students do not know the difference between average, above-average, and excellent work.

I feel that it is up to instructors to remind students that earning an "A" means that they need to produce a higher quality of work.

Oh, and we can always throw in that "curving" is not in our vocabulary.

Loving Afar:
Afar is absolutely right. My students expect to get (as opposed to "earn") an A, merely for completing all class requirements, and that is simply wrong. When my students ask me why I "gave" them a B or a C, am I wrong in thinking that I don't really owe them any explanation beyond what they already know (i.e., their test scores, the grade distribution in class etc.)?

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