Posted by: Gregory Linton | 07/16/2011

A History of College Grade Inflation –

A History of College Grade Inflation –

The NY Times has weighed in on the recent study that showed the trends of grade inflation. The explanations at the end of the article are interesting, especially the idea that a consumer-oriented approach to higher education has fueled these trends. This may explain why private colleges give higher grades than public colleges: Perhaps they are more desperate for students, and so they are afraid they will run off potential students if they earn a reputation of being too tough. Also, colleges want their students to go on to graduate school, and that desire increases the temptation to inflate grades to pave the way for more students to continue their studies.

They suggested that the increased emphasis on student evaluations of teaching since the 1960s has put pressure on professors to inflate grades in order to receive higher ratings. This raises an interesting question for consideration. What is the payoff for a professor to buck the trends and give students the grade they actually deserve? What recognition or rewards will he or she receive for doing that? Will students appreciate their honesty and high expectations? Will the academic dean give him or her a pat on the back in spite of the lower student ratings? There seems to be little motivation for resisting the temptation to keep students happy by giving them higher grades than they deserve. And so these trends of grade inflation will probably continue.

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