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Comments about ‘Grade inflation on the rise in higher education’

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Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18 2013 4:00 a.m. MST

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Peter R
Provo, UT

Quick correction to the article. If you read the attached Boston Globe article, Mansfield expressed disbelief that the average grade at Harvard was higher than an A-, it was an A. From the Globe:

“I thought the most prevalent grade was an A-minus, which is bad enough,” said Mansfield. “When I asked the question [about the most frequently given grade], it was worse.”

Peter R
Provo, UT

Grade inflation is when grades are an inaccurate overrepresentation of a student's achievement or placement, based on the purpose of the course. By Mansfield's own admission, he believes that the As are an accurate reflection of student achievement. The average GPA of the incoming freshman at Harvard is 4.0, the average SAT score is above 2100 and the average ACT score is above a 30. By design, the students entering Harvard have cultivated habits of high achievement. I'm not sure why Mansfield would expect students to start slacking off once they get into the most reportedly selective university in the nation (some reports have it as MIT, some as Harvard).

Many administrators in Higher Education use student failure as a measure of the rigor of their courses. If the purpose of a course is normative, then grades should reflect course standing. But if the purpose of the course is mastery, then grades should reflect the criteria that students have met/mastered independent of other students. It is just as dishonest for a professor to withhold a high grade from a student b/c of that professor's belief that grades should be normative when his/her course was achievement-based.

Dr. Thom
Long Beach, CA

At a HBCU where I taught for several years, the average grade in business economics was a D whereas at the state university just down the road, the average grade in the same course using the same instructor, textbook, lectures, exams and syllabus was a B. To assure that parents were not "disappointed" at graduation and to increase the graduation rate (15% for women and 9.5 % for men after five years) the president of the college would arbitrarily change final grades for graduating seniors from Fs to Cs without prior approval or knowledge if the department dean or professor. We kept really good records and met often as a department so we knew who was eligible to graduate and who wasn't.

A lot of grade inflation has to do with the students and the academic expectations but if someone is an adjunct (and 75% of all faculty are contingent faculty which means they have no security, are not tenure or full time and work from contract to contract) making sure that the institution and students give an instructor better than average evaluations is often the difference between being rehired for the next semester or shown the door.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

The grade inflation at our universities pales in comparison to the grade hyperinflation happening in high school. That is the real issue. Scores of 3.7 and even 4.0 students who don't really have the skills to go to a college thinking they have the skills to go to college. Pressure by parents on teachers to give their John or Jane an "A" because he is an "A" student. Then, smack the real world happens even as quick as their freshman year when they are in remedial math and English classes because they never possessed the skills.

worf
Mcallen, TX

Grade inflation occurs K-12.
Low grades lead to bad teacher evaluations.

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