Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Grade Inflation

It is a a problem at every level of education. Teachers give out higher grades than they should and students expect higher grades than they earned.

Allan Bevere has some good thoughts today on the topic.

Grade Inflation: Its Causes and Consequences

I heartily echo this paragraph by Allan:

Part of the problem is that we live in a culture where relationships are understood primarily as transactional and education is often understood by students as exactly that. In exchange for tuition the school issues good grades and a diploma, assuming of course that all the assignments are turned in and class expectations fulfilled. On more than a few occasions I have had emails from students after not receiving an A for the course wondering why they received a B (or less) since they did turn in all the assignments. Apparently, the quality of the work for some is not the determining factor in the final grade; simply turning in the assignments is sufficient.


  1. In most cases students don;t worry about ROT (return-on-tuition). It is the parents who have traditionally footed the bill who expect good grades in return.

    Another thought is how the Ivy League "gentleman's C" that George W Bush supposedly benefited from fit in to this pattern.

    If educational results are not about learning skills that make you more productive but more about signaling to others that you have been screened by a reputable institution OR that you belong to the class of people who attend high status schools then the grades are irrelevant for the vast majority of students (those not bound for professorships?).

  2. Institutions complaining about students. Well, the institutions could do something about selling education as a job ticket. Blaming others is always easier than changing your own behaviour.

  3. During my short sojourn as a marker I always enjoyed observing the inverse ratio between how hard the student had worked on their essay against how puzzled they were that it had got a poor mark. It was a struggle not to say to such people "you did a crappy job, why are you asking me why you got a crappy mark?"

  4. This drove me crazy, specifically in grad school, for selfish reasons. All those A's devalue my A (assuming my A was deserved, of course.) but I totally agree on the transactional value theory, that education is suddenly a product to be purchased.