Graduation and Grade-InflationJune 9, 2005
I am celebrating the last of my children graduating from High School tomorrow. I swell with pride at her accomplishments and the determination she showed in finishing all her required courses. It is always a challenge in life to finish as well as you start. When she came home yesterday after her final exam of all final exams, she beamed my way an accomplished and self-satisfied grin. She is done.
Well, she’s completed this part of her education. She probably won’t read this, as she is now doing the expected round of parties and congratulatory trips to the Wet Seal and Pac Sun. But for the rest of you, allow me to provide a peek into her near future.
College expectations have changed since I looked forward to attending. The biggest change is grade inflation. It is currently easier to get an “A” at Harvard Law School than at American River College. The most famous schools in the USA are all subject to this trend. Journalism professor, Alicia Shepard offers this opinion of where it all started:
Arthur Levine, president of Columbia University Teacher’s College and an authority on grading, traces what’s going on to the Vietnam War. “Men who got low grades could be drafted,” Levine says. “The next piece was the spread of graduate schools where only A’s and B’s were passing grades. That soon got passed on to undergraduates and set the standard.”
And then there’s consumerism, he says. Pure and simple, tuition at a private college runs, on average, nearly $28,000 a year. If parents pay that much, they expect nothing less than A’s in return. “Therefore, if the teacher gives you a B, that’s not acceptable,” says Levine, “because the teacher works for you. I expect A’s, and if I’m getting B’s, I’m not getting my money’s worth.”
Rojstaczer agrees: “We’ve made a transition where attending college is no longer a privilege and an honor; instead college is a consumer product. One of the negative aspects of this transition is that the role of a college-level teacher has been transformed into that of a service employee.”
Read the rest of her article in this piece from the Washington Post. She details how several of her students tried to force her to change their grades. The appeals and rationale they use are troubling. But her conclusion is worth noting. She gives us advance warning to what may be peeking over the horizon. Schools may be ready for a different swing of the pendulum, back to the days when “C” was an average grade.
Last year, 90% of the graduating class of Harvard Law School graduated with honors. The school has announced that this year their Honor Roll will not exceed 50% of the graduating class. They also hinted that the percentage would drop again each year following. Unless they foresee dumber students attending, they must be playing around with a total policy change. Look out college students, real grades may be showing up at a transcript near you.
As for me, I am going to take 10,000 pictures of a cute little senior with a permanent smile.