Category Archives: Grading

A scary set of assumptions

A story in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Today’s Students: Same as Always, but More So“) included a scary set of figures:

Current undergraduates have the most inflated grades in 40 years, but a majority (60 percent) believe their grades understate their academic ability, even though nearly half (45 percent) have had to take remedial courses. (Forty-one percent have grades of A-minus or higher, compared with 7 percent in 1969, and only 9 percent have grades of C or lower, compared with 25 percent in 1969.)

So, the students come into the college classroom expect higher grades while many do not deserve the grades they’ve been given by their K-12.

It sounds like these students are going to have a hard landing in college when they suddenly encounter the kinds of standards many have been shielded from. And we get to give them the bad news.

This just in: Students are not studying

The Washington Post has a story (“Is college too easy? As study time falls, debate rises“) that turns much of the debate in higher education on its head–if only briefly.

Usually we hear universities asked why more students are not graduating with the implication being that universities need to make graduation easier. The story’s headline asks the kind of questions found in Academically Adrift and other studies. The results reflect declining study time with tremendous variation across majors:

Number of hours spent studying by major

All the research tells us that students enter college poorly prepared and then don’t study. You have to wonder why politicians keep blaming universities when students don’t graduate in four years.

Grade inflation

A story in Insider Higher Ed (“Easy A“) reports that a recent study of grades found that 43% of college grades are As.

The summary of the article (all I have access to) states:

Contemporary data indicate that, on average across a wide range of schools, A’s represent 43% of all letter grades, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. D’s and F’s total typically less than 10% of all letter grades. Private colleges and universities give, on average, significantly more A’s and B’s combined than public institutions with equal student selectivity. Southern schools grade more harshly than those in other regions, and science and engineering-focused schools grade more stringently than those emphasizing the liberal arts. At schools with modest selectivity, grading is as generous as it was in the mid-1980s at highly selective schools. These prestigious schools have, in turn, continued to ramp up their grades. It is likely that at many selective and highly selective schools, undergraduate GPAs are now so saturated at the high end that they have little use as a motivator of students and as an evaluation tool for graduate and professional schools and employers.

I have to admit that I am very surprised by these finding and worried about the implications.