Inflating the F

The worst grade inflation turns F’s into D’s or C’s, writes Jason Fertig, a management professor at University of Southern Indiana. After changing the names, Fertig publishes semi-literate e-mails from a student who begged his way into an online class — he needed one more credit to complete a degree — then tried to pass by begging for unearned points. He failed.

Every F that is inflated to a D or C grade moves a given student to the next level without that student demonstrating satisfactory performance. . . . The damage to the worth of a college education and the ensuing credential inflation increases exponentially with every “Drake” that walks across that stage.

“Drake” is “not unique,” Fertig writes. And he’s a real student.

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  1. Why is this a surprise? These are the kids who have passed through the k-12 pipeline the same way. There’s a lot of talk from the ed world about students “taking responsibility for their own learning” (even at beginning ES level, when it’s not developmentally appropriate) but talk is all it is. There is little focus on serious academics and little on mastery before advancing. Lots of undeserved grading points are given for incorrect, sloppy, late and/or missing work. Why should kids expect college to be different?

    I am well-aware that there are many hard-working kids who want to learn, work hard and turn work in on time. However, many – in some schools it may be most – aren’t in that universe. The push to decrease dropout/increase graduation rates just makes it worse.

  2. Cynical says:

    It’s the same thing as affirmative action, demanding un-earned and un-merited benefits.

  3. Teachers lie when they award unearned grades. If students could edit their transcripts, perhaps fewer students would pressure teachers to lie. Painters can destroy portraits and lanscapes they do not wish to sell. Sculptors may used a botched stone lion as raw material for a gazelle. Models present portfolios of their best work and omit their bad hair days. Writers edit their copy. Allowing students to edit their transcripts would offer great advantages over the current system, as would creation of credit-by-exam for all core requirements.

  4. I felt somewhat sorry for the guy based on the excerpt here, but reading the full exchange of emails changed my mind.

    I did, however, feel that the professor was unnecessarily snotty in his assumption that a student who needs just one more class to graduate is automatically a slacker. I had to beg my way into a graduate seminar because I needed one more course in my major to graduate and I had already taken all the lower level classes offered that term. I wasn’t a 5th year senior but rather trying to graduate in 3 1/2 years in order to save money.

  5. It is okay to fail in life. Society does not feel this way, especially when you pay for a class. The feeling is, well, I paid for the class, so I should get the credit.

    I’m grateful for the failures in my life. If I hadn’t failed in so many relationships I never would have met my wife.

  6. Kids feel this way because there are far too many parents out there who demand their child be allowed to pass simply for being present in class. Never mind that the child doesn’t do the work in class, much less any possible homework. Never mind that the child honestly earned a C–obviously since they turned everything in, they deserve an A.

  7. Grammar Nazi says:

    When I read Joanne describing the emails as “semi-literate”, I was expecting frequent and glaring errors. Instead I saw occasional typos that didn’t really affect the readability of the emails much. And if we are now nitpicking people’s grammar, there is quite a lot from the supposed “professionals” to discuss in this situation. Perhaps those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?

    “You’re situation is unique”

    Misspelled “your”.

    “The best thing you can do is show me the performance-level that Drake gives in his career and you’ll ‘make up the points’ by raising your grade with a good second half of class.”

    Added an extraneous hyphen to “performance level” (and, really, it should be “level of performance”; just because you teach a management course doesn’t mean you have to talk in management-speak) and omitted a “that” between “and” and “you’ll”.

    “If you would have learned anything in the course”

    Used the conditional (“would have”) instead of the subjunctive (“had”).

    Then, at the very end, Fertig writes “When lawmakers advocate for increased college degrees, or base state funding on increasing graduation rates, are they talking about granting degrees to (the abstract category of) students so they can benefit from the (statistically questionable) wage premium of the degree, or are they really inferring that more “Drakes” will grace college campuses and expect degrees in exchange for tuition and little work?”

    That sentence makes no sense. Did he mean “imply” instead of “infer”?


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