Too many ‘A’ students

Grade inflation is forcing college admissions officers to rely more heavily on test scores to tell all the “A” students apart, reports AP. A few colleges no longer require SAT or ACT scores, but none of the most selective colleges have stopped using the tests.

In fact, a national survey shows overall reliance on test scores is higher in admissions than it was a decade ago.

“It’s the only thing we have to evaluate students that will help us” tell how they compare to each other, said Lee Stetson, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania.

. . . The average high school GPA increased from 2.68 to 2.94 between 1990 and 2000, according to a federal study. Almost 23 percent of college freshmen in 2005 reported their average grade in high school was an A or better, according to a national survey by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. In 1975, the percentage was about half that.

GPAs reported by students on surveys when they take the SAT and ACT exams have also risen � and faster than their scores on those tests. That suggests their classroom grades aren’t rising just because students are getting smarter. Not surprisingly, the test-owners say grade inflation shows why testing should be kept: It gives all students an equal chance to shine.

In urban districts, A and B students may not be prepared for college.

More than 70 percent of schools and districts analyzed by an education audit company called SchoolMatch had average GPAs significantly higher than they should have been based on their standardized test scores � including the school systems in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Denver, San Bernardino, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio.

When Georgia offered in-state college scholarships to students with a B average in high school, teachers started giving higher grades to qualify their students. But half the scholarship receipients lost aid because they were unable to maintain a B average in college.

About Joanne


  1. In my school we have recently had a push to get more and more students to take Honors and AP classes. This has resulted in a watering down of courses and curriculum along with their expectations. I like the idea of higher expectations for students but unless we hold to the standard it becomes useless. As we near the end of the semester teachers are asked to make a list of possible failures and how we’re addressing the issue. This puts the pressure on the teacher, not the student, to make sure they pass. Another result of that policy is that the non-honors/AP classes are left with the lowest achieving students, missing those who may normally be the leaders. As a result the standards and level of achievement drops to allow “success” to most students.

  2. Wayne Martin says:

    Most school districts do not publish the student GPAs in the yearly budget, or District Annual Report. Many publish the SAT and ACT scores, and standardized scores. This issue of grade inflation would be easy to spot locally if the GPAs and SAT/ACT scores were available.

    Study and study keeps pointing how how poorly the public education system is performing. There ought to be a law requiring that all the data needed to evaluate a school district be available on the School’s WEB-site.

    The US is spending about $1T on public education– we deserve more for our money.

  3. In my district we have grade deflation in the middle school – or, at least, we did last year.

    I had begun to wonder about grade inflation for a number of reasons (no point taking up space here).

    Now we have the smoking gun.

    The teacher who teaches accelerated math was told to “hold down the number of As.”

    That is contrary to standard practice in the state of New York, where kids taking accelerated courses are slightly curved up – usually according to a specific formula – so they aren’t penalized for taking the harder course.

    Our teacher was told to grade kids down.

    Parents weren’t told that this was policy.

    I’m pretty sure there are neighboring middle schools that also have grade deflation. We know about this because a colleague of my husband’s, a distinguished historian, wrote one of her 8th grader’s papers start to finish and received a grade of C.

    A distinguished historian!

    I have other stories, but the point is: there’s a grade deflation “story” out there waiting to be discovered.

    I’m not sure why grade deflation exists, although I can see “incentives” that would move things in this direction.

    One of the benefits to the school is that artificially low grades serve as a form of “false rigor.” Most of us think a hard course is a good course; Public Agenda just did a survey based on this premise. (Parents said the courses their kids are taking today are “harder”; therefore they’re better.)

    Grade deflation also keeps parents off balance and unlikely to form common cause.

    No one wants to tell other people that his child is doing badly, and parents are strongly disinclined to say, “Our school is mediocre because my kid’s grades are bad.”

    That makes you sound like a grade grubber. Given the steady production of “news” stories on helicopter parents, parents have gotten the message that it’s “pushy” to focus too much on your kid’s grades.

    At my school, last year in particular, parents constantly prefaced statements with the line, “I don’t care if my child gets A.”

    Something in the social dynamic of the district causes parents to feel they must apologize for “wanting As.”

    Point is: the effect of grade deflation in an affluent district with highly educated parents seems to be to prevent parents from questioning the school. Instead they question their children’s ability & hire tutors – often teachers from the school.

    (Another incentive.)

    When each family worries alone, you don’t have parent uprisings.