Grade Inflation: Is A the new C?
Quinn, my 9-year-old stepson played on a little league baseball team. He attended most of the practices and played in all the games. I asked one day who won the game today? He looked to his father for the answer. I asked, “doesn’t he know if his team won?” It seems that this little league bent the rules of baseball. Well, they didn’t just bend the rules they made up their own rules – making sure all the players played, no one struck out, five runs and the other team was up… you get my drift.
Then to top it off they held a party at the end of the season where everyone received a trophy. I was frankly appalled. Being rewarded just for participation.
The prevalence of grade inflation is effecting students, professors and institutions. Students are receiving higher grades than earned. A has become the new C. If our educational system is failing to grade appropriately for attainment of knowledge that students supposedly are there to gain, then what does it all mean? It would seem suitable to compare it to giving every person on a sport team a trophy just for participating.
It is a deceptive practice and ethically wrong to give a grade when it truly is not achieved no matter what the reason. The purpose of this argument on grade inflation is to convince students, professors, parents and institutions that the practice of grade inflation must stop. Everyone is affected by the strength or weakness and by the fairness or unjust attributes of our educational system. Grade Inflation has many repercussions. Students receiving higher grades make it difficult to discern the average student from the above average student from the exceptional student.
In my research, I have found educators agreeing that grade inflation is a problem. Over the past decades claims of grade inflation in American higher education have been ubiquitous, with ample evidence documenting its prevalence and severity (Arnold 2004; Summary & Weber 2012; Carter & Lara, 2016, p. 346). As stated by Rojstaczer 2003, “The data indicate that not only is C an endangered species but that B, once the most popular grade at universities and colleges, has been supplanted by the former symbol of perfection, the A” (p. A21)
It is important to note the causes of grade inflation in the first place. As stated by Rojstaczer and Healy (2010), “Faculty attitudes about teaching and grading underwent a profound shift that coincided with the Vietnam War (see graph below). Many professors, certainly not all or even a majority, became convinced that grades were not a useful tool for motivation, were not a valid means of evaluation and created a harmful authoritarian environment for learning. Added to this shift was a real-life exigency. In the 1960s, full-time male college students were exempt from the military draft. If a male college student flunked out, chances were that he would end up as a soldier in the Vietnam War, a highly unpopular conflict on a deadly battlefield. Partly in response to changing attitudes about the nature of teaching and partly to ensure that male students maintained their full-time status, grades rose rapidly”. Then there seemed to be a lull in grade inflation until the 1980’s when grades began to rise again. “A new ethos had developed among college leaders. Students were no longer thought of as acolytes searching for knowledge. Instead they were customers” (Rojstaczer & Healy, 2010).