Saturday, July 09, 2011

Grade Inflation, Standards Deflation

I am reading Iain Murray's new book Stealing You Blind: How Government Fat Cats Are Getting Rich Off of You and his chapter on "The Education Bubble" caught my eye.

Murray discusses grade inflation and states that "the education establishment often points to rising grades to justify this high spending, but when you look closely at the issue, you find that we've actually suffered a two decade-plus period of grade inflation, not rising standards." Apparently, grades are rising much faster than ACT or SAT scores. This grade inflation is a problem for colleges. For example, "In 2006, UCLA received 47,317 applications, of which nearly 21,000 had GPAs of 4.0--or above."

So next time your kids brings home a B, should you start to worry since it's probably the new C?



Blogger Doom said...

Oh, I think you are sorely misguided in your notions, Helen.

Grade inflation, indeed. Lower standards, indeed. Combined, that A is a C, that B is a fail. A students, most of them, aren't honestly prepared for college. College is the new highschool... perhaps junior high. Kids are kids until, well. I don't think people bother to grow up anymore, actually, at all. Self included unless I am actually ill.

9:02 AM, July 09, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

My son graduated from a rural public high school in May. The number of people who had honor level GPAs of some sort was astounding, nearly half. It's a combination of grade inflation, kids taking easy classes to get higher grades, plus honors classes in which a B is a 4.0 on the numeric scale.

Knowing many of these kids for years, I know that many of these "honors" students wouldn't have been when I was in high school back in the old days. Their ACT scores prove it. The get the same scores I did with a 2.91 HS GPA. (I did much better in college.)

10:13 AM, July 09, 2011  
Blogger JJW said...

Then there's the parent boasting about her kid's 4.5 GPA. That's kind of like a restaurant getting a grade of 102% on a sanitation inspection.

The newspaper where I live devotes a lot of ink to sucking up to the new superintendent of schools. It's got to be one of the worst school systems in the country, and anyone who can manage to scrape up the money sends their kids to private school. The school superintendent is paid $190K per year plus an astonishing array of benefits. He was fired from another district for extensive financial impropriety. He is also a functional illiterate.

When you consider the dull-witted, careerist thieves who get into public education administration, none of the rest of it can come as any surprise.

10:29 AM, July 09, 2011  
Blogger Mister Wolf said...

Helen and Gentlemen,

GPAs are a completely unreliable signal of intelligence. They vary too much between schools and individual instructors(not to mention the grade inflation problem). Hence, standardize admissions exams for schools or just asking some knowledge based questions during job interviews are more reliable indicators of intelligence.

I'd view most 4.0 GPAs(especially BA/BS GPAs) as highly suspect. Typically, they're kids who picked easier courses of study. I'd vastly prefer someone who's actually had some academic challenge in their life(and maybe a lower GPA).

11:55 AM, July 09, 2011  
Blogger Larry J said...

Larry's First Law:

"Anything is possible if you lower your standards far enough."

While it was coined back in the 1980s to describe military procurement, it most definitely applies to education as well.

2:57 PM, July 09, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

I used to know a woman who had a masters in education. She was very highly thought of in her field, and I am inclined to believe it was justified. She specialized in reading skills development for kids with dyslexia. She was 43 years old, liberal (duh), a staunch supporter of the NEA and a feminist. [you can see where this is going, right?]

She believed in and practiced witchcraft.
She paid $2,300 to an astrologer to develop her retirement portfolio.
She paid $3,000 per year (for 4 years) to a guy in Arizona who claimed to have uncovered the power of body energy (Chi), and how you can channel your chi to levitate, disarm a mugger and have 3-hour orgasms.
She believed "Driving Miss Daisy" was the most offensive piece of racist trash since Birth of a Nation.

...and it just gets worse.

I don't think education is a profession, it's an industry run by morons and parasites. I know there are great teachers (I met both of them), but most people with education degrees are living on another planet. And the standards for performance in schools are a product of lowering the needed skillsets of teachers, not the development of students.

It is a national disgrace.

3:57 PM, July 09, 2011  
Blogger Southern Man said...

Many graduate programs (including the one in which I teach) require a 3.0 (that is, a B) to maintain status in the program. So, C is no longer average (hasn't been for a long time) and B is no longer average; B is barely above failing. There are essentially three grades in grad school today: A, B, and fail.

8:45 PM, July 09, 2011  
Blogger Doom said...

My grad school friends let me know the secret. If you are in with the in crowd, or the professoriate, you get the quiz and test answers. If not you fail, you can't possibly keep up otherwise. Give or take.

Deny if you wish, but that would make your students liars (vicariously, perhaps). Now, memorizing some of those answers leaves room for grade differences, but coming up with them on your own, for several very different courses? Why not just have engineering students reinvent the wheel from a blindfolded position for a project? Not going to happen. And not damn likely to succeed (without a lot of... wink and nod). (the grads were in physics, diffie q, engineering, and business master/ph. d.(mostly) programs, in several different schools (albeit all public)).

9:53 PM, July 09, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should worry that the curriculum in your child's school is even worse than the grade inflation.

Grade-A work means they made that great imovie for English class--but no one wrote a paper; they made enchiladas in Spanish class but had no conversations; did origami rather than learned how to do a two column proof in geometry class. And that's the A students--the B and C did less.

you should know that the math program in k-8 in the US is so abysmal that most students could not possibly pass an algebra 1 class as it was taught in the 60s, let alone alg 2 or pre calc. You should know that as a result, they are lowering the standards in algebra classes accordingly. Few middle or jr or sr high school students are ever assigned actual books to read anymore, and those they are assigned have nowhere neat the complexity of books assigned a couple decades ago. Grammar is not taught, sentence writing is not taught. Journaling is all they do--and about how they feel, not about content.

It's a lot worse than you realize.

12:02 AM, July 10, 2011  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

I've actually been in this position. Teaching high shool, I gave my students a simple assignment. They didn't do it. Seniors, you know.

I made over 300 phone calls to parents. I sent letters home which had to be returned signed. I consulted with the principal.

At the the end of the semester, since the students had not done their work, I failed 70% of them. And caught more grief for it than you can imagine. It's the reason why I left teaching.

Grade inflation is the only way a teacher can keep his or her job. And don't think it stops at the high school level. I've taught college as well, and it's even worse there.

7:04 AM, July 10, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

mostly i think education is redundant, unless it`s in the physical sciences...and the type of people who are educators are the problem. trade-unionists...little chubby ones with grabby hands.

what does a child have in their head when they come out of high school?

every single thing i ever learned, other than favoritism and marginalisation, i learned at the kitchen table (dad was a chemist) or by doing...or out of books that i went and found myself and read...and video lectures (god i love google video.)

high school seems to me to be about producing more bureaucrats, because mostly people seem to know more about what one can`t do than what one can.

that`s why i laugh when i see business and entrepreneuring classes taught by school teachers.

8:06 AM, July 10, 2011  
Blogger br549 said...

In my daughter's high school graduating class there were only 20 students who achieved 4.0 or better, out of hundreds. All of them took AP classes throughout high school. So (hopefully) not all school systems are doing what we have all been watching for years. Algebra is now required to graduate from high school in my area. How are they going to make that happen? Outcome based algebra?

I can't for the life of me understand the logic behind why our government wants us dumbed down, but they do.

9:23 AM, July 10, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

if you can`t read lacan or jung, or solve a quadratic equation, you are leass likely to question dodgy businees practices from our handlers....

4:40 PM, July 10, 2011  
Blogger Master Doh-San said...

In the last 40 years or so, this country has gone from teaching Latin and Greek at the high school level -- as a norm -- to teaching Remedial English at the college level, as a norm.

God help Amerika.

1:37 PM, July 11, 2011  
Blogger LPF said...

The whole greater than 4.0 GPA thing is pretty much a joke.

Look at the (5.0) AP coursework: If you're older than about 35 you took all of it, on a normal 4.0 scale.

I took equivalent Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, French, Computer Science,... My HS even had a class in Nuclear Physics that I took, all on a regular 4.0 scale. All measured against students who never got beyond Algebra and Typing.

The ironic thing is, the real world still stands up and b!tch-slaps all of these 'over-achievers' when they hit the job market. Largely because ('advanced' economics courses or not) most of these poor bastards never had a garden variety civics teacher willing to teach them the advantages of liberty & economic freedom over collectivism. Consequently, we have a 'lost generation' of 20-somethings who voted for 'progressives' in droves and are now reaping the massive joblessness that's a direct result of business unfriendly and economically untenable policies.

I just sit back and chuckle to myself (and occasionally gloat via blog comments).

3:26 PM, July 11, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The simple fact is that there are very fine schools in this nation and then there are many that are lousy.

Colleges note not just grades but the schools issuing the grades.

Do you think a straight A student from a known terrible school will get into an elite university because of high honors from a known rotten school?

Yes. There is grade inflation. Guess what? This is not new. The Ivys have or had the Gentleman's C, which means a very poor student from a wealthy family. In fact a former president seems to have fit that category.

9:19 PM, July 11, 2011  
Blogger Jerub-Baal said...

We home school...

... now you know why.

9:19 PM, July 11, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

In fact a former president seems to have fit that category.

Plus, two former Democratic candidates, Gore and Kerry, who both had worse academic records than W. Wonder what the Chosen One's academic record is. Not good, I'd bet, since he keeps it hidden.

fred - your about as shallow and transparent as they come.

BTW - When I was in grade school and high school in the 50s and 60 there wasn't any grade inflation in my area. And, no 4.0s either. Do any public schools offer Latin any more like mine did back in the day?

11:04 PM, July 11, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is grade inflation. Guess what? This is not new. The Ivys have or had the Gentleman's C, which means a very poor student from a wealthy family."

That's not quite right. The Gentleman's C isn't evidence of grade inflation in the past, its extinction is evidence of grade inflation in the present. My favorite high school English teacher used to bewail this tragedy all the time. He was old as dirt - graduated Yale and Harvard before the war. Apparently they didn't have grade inflation in his day, and he wasn't about to get with the program.

To him a C wasn't a bad grade, it was an average grade, and therefore must always be the median grade in every class. We always pointed out that everybody else in the world - other teachers, our parents, *colleges* - thought a B was an average grade and a C a poor one. He always replied that it was perfectly respectable to be average if that was all a person could muster. He'd say that if people weren't willing to work hard there was no shame in settling for a Gentleman's C.

The able-bodied C man! He sails swimmingly along.
His philosophy is rosy as a skylark's mating song.
The light of his ambition is respectably to pass,
And to hold a firm position in the middle of his class.

6:56 AM, July 12, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

LPF wrote: "The ironic thing is, the real world still stands up and b!tch-slaps all of these 'over-achievers' when they hit the job market."

Well said. My eldest daughter transferred from a prestigious and liberal High School to a Christian School. All we heard was how her education would suffer because the school would be too easy for her.

We believed those statements as did my child. Wonder of wonders she worked harder this last year than she had ever worked at school. She took several AP courses and aced them.

The old school had bigotry toward a school because of its religious orientation. I am embarassed to say I did too. But more on topic, she would get a 105 on some of her tests. That to me is a sign of a test that is too easy.

She will meet reality after college, I feel better about her preparation now than I did a year ago.


9:14 AM, July 12, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

that`s good news trey.

i worry about my step-daughter. she spent two years at college to get a vet tech diploma that allows her access to the minimum wage world of vet assistant, pet shop clerk and wal mart employee.

at the present she works for a small zoo that specialises in large cats, and she loves it except for the minimum wage salary.

the job can`t pay more for her because she`s doing what 12 and 13 year olds are doing around her...members of the owner`s family.

so she can go work in a pet store, or apply to vet clinics and they will pay her the same $10.50 per hour because the market is flooded with young girls with vet tech diplomaas, all equally qualified to feed animals food and water.


9:33 AM, July 12, 2011  
Blogger Helen Smith said...

Hi all,

My blog has me locked out so I can't post on blogger right now. However, you can check out some of my posts at Pajamas Media's new Lifesyle blog here:

11:51 AM, July 12, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

and the vet tech scam continues. in the fall she has to take a provicial board exam with a $250 fee that is annual!

all for that vaunted $10.50 per hour that is available at walmart to all with a pulse.

12:16 PM, July 12, 2011  

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