The Trouble with Grade Inflation
by Jon Hanover, Editorial Editor
The powers that be in American academia are placing an increased emphasis on grades. Grades have increased as a result, but has academic performance really improved?
It's unlikely. An increased emphasis on grades discourages students from taking harder classes. Guidance departments have been known, in fact, to advise students to drop a difficult class that might otherwise lower their GPAs and hurt their chances of acceptance into colleges of choice.
"All some students need is a little encouragement - a kick in the pants - and they'll step up to the challenge," said Mr. Prueter, whose Latin class is often dropped because of its difficulty. "If you tell someone they're weak, that's what they'll be."
Many teachers have claimed when interviewed that they have been pressured to lower their standards by raising their grades but wish to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. "The pressure comes from all levels," said one such teacher, "the students, the parents, and the administration."
Grades at West Geauga are constantly rising; unfortunately, our standardized test scores aren't. Over 70% of West Geauga students currently maintain an A or B average, yet our SAT and ACT scores remain barely above the state average (ACT mid 50% range: 18.5 - 25.4 at West Geauga; 17.9 - 24.5 state wide).
Perhaps more shockingly, thirty years ago, the West Geauga National Honor Society (NHS) consisted of 2-3% of the class, while now it consists of approximately 25% of the class. "It's terrible," said NHS advisor Ms. Paine, "They haven't gotten any smarter. They just think it's a right to be in NHS, but it's not a right."
Ms. Paine had something to say about inflated grades, too: "I used to just test and quiz my students. If they passed they passed, if they failed they failed. Now I give students points for doing homework. I wished I didn't do it, but I have to."
West Geauga isn't the only problem. High schools and colleges across the nation are handing out ridiculously inflated grades. The bulging balloon of our false expectation can't last long. There comes a time when grades have to match academic performance - and that time is now.