“I would like to state my own alarm and dismay at the degree to which grade compression … has infected some of our colleges,” said Christopher Cramer, chairman of the Faculty Consultative Committee. “I think we are at serious risk, through the abandonment of our own commitment of rigorous academic standards, of having outside standards imposed upon us.”
National studies and surveys suggest that college students now get more A’s than any other grade even though they spend less time studying.
Cramer’s solution — to tack onto every transcript the percentage of students that also got that grade — has split the faculty and highlighted how tricky it can be to define, much less combat, grade inflation.
Some universities show aggregate score out of 100, letter grade, and standing in class. I think it's a good idea and gives a better picture than a single letter grade.ReplyDelete
I'm doing my bit. Spring semester's large, general-ed, intro-astronomy course was the worst I've ever had. I simply could not get them to stop texting, or read anything. I therefore let them have it: only one student out of 94 got an A, and only 35 got a B, and I still think I was being too generous. Don't worry, they richly deserved it: only about half of them are writing at college level. (Go, Greta!)ReplyDelete
I am now enduring the ensuing shitstorm. It's not pleasant---particularly not the whining!---but at least my chances of making it all stick are good, since I have tenure.
In a situation like this, FERPA can help you. I don't post grades online, since the Supreme Court of the United States has made this so complicated, I just won't do it anymore. Therefore, unless students ask every other student in the class what grade they got, and always get answers that are honest, they can't know that only one student got an A, and I sure won't tell them. I say, "How your grade was determined doesn't depend on how any other student's grade," and leave it at that. The time is long overdue for the adults (the real adults, I mean) to take back the classroom: I hope there's still hope.Delete
FERPA doesn't stop you from announcing aggregate grades, especially in a situation where the N is large.Delete
If you use a LMS, you can click "Display class average"--which I do. When I look at the student's grade, it displays a column for the grade the student earned, then a column for the average grade for the whole class.Delete
Out of 44 students in my comp classes, only 1 got an A. This was a bad, bad semester.
I had a similar experience. Out of nearly 100 students I had 2 or 3 with an A. I couldn't believe it, as I felt the material was much easier than usual. And the complaints--it was shocking. Everyone "worked hard" of course, without turning in evidence of such work, but nonetheless...Luckily my administration doesn't believe in grade inflation either.Delete
I'm not doing my part, because I would rather quit than be fired. I have solid evidence that my college doesn't care about grade inflation, even though they talk about it. They do care about retention, however. So while my grades are still below department average, they are better than they should be. This is what the college wants and they're paying the piper. As long as they keep getting accredited, I suppose I'm out of arguments, since this is apparently what the scholarly community or the political reality or some other abstraction wants as well.ReplyDelete
Same boat ...Delete
I just waded through a pool of crappy writing. My brain screamed that a B- should not be the floor, but my heart did not want to contemplate the shit-storm of whining and/or a return to the unemployment line.
My grade distribution just follows a basic bell curve, luckily. Most of my students earn C's, though I have slightly too many low B's, which is fine with me, since I apparently err on the side of slight inflation. This tells me that my students have no legitimate grievances over the grades I give them, so I couldn't care less what they think.Delete
My course average is about a 77%. So screw them. That's a nearly perfect average, as I always aim for a 75%. There is NO WAY I'm going to just hand out A's in my comp class. No way in H E L L. It violates everything I stand for.
I attended a school (big R-1) that did that sort of grade breaksown on report cards-- how many students got As and Bs etc (I don't think on the transcripts, though). Made for great gossip in the grad seminars (OMG WHO GOT A B-?!).ReplyDelete
OK, let me get this straight. We are giving more A's than ever before but we still have students who can't pass the remedial classes? I need to dial down my sympathy for the dummies even more.ReplyDelete
The two parts of the article that made me laugh were:
"Subtract P.E., and the college’s share of A’s drops from 60.9 to 48.9 percent, said U spokesman Chuck Tombarge."
Well, ok then. Only half the students in education classes get A's. Weren't we just talking about the quality of teachers?
"Indiana University, Bloomington, tried 'one of the most innovative and objective approaches to grade reporting.'" ... "Such transcripts are no longer available, largely because of a change in software systems."
Of course. Innovation should always fall prey to software that makes administrators' lives easier.
I was once in a dept meeting where we were talking about the prerequisites for a class because there could only be ONE. But everyone in the dept was in agreement that there should be two. "We can't have 2," said the Chair, because IT don't like programming that in the enrolment system". I stuck my hand up and said "Just to be clear, we're saying IT determines pedagogy, now?" There was this moment of silence, and then everyone just moved on.ReplyDelete
Everywhere I've ever worked. If you're lucky, they're at least competent at keeping the system working as it should. If not, then you have to depend on your support/admin staff to fill the gaps, and they may or may not be up to the task.....Delete
"Just to be clear, we're saying IT determines pedagogy, now?"Delete
At our Uni, IT played the determining role in our shift from full-year to half-year courses.
My college is pretty pathetic when it comes to technology and bureaucratic organization, and even when problems are made public, nobody does an f-ing thing about them, just like in your college, I'd guess. That's bureaucracy for ya.Delete
My uni will officially have a common grade scheme next fall as opposed to departments making their own. The catch is, the highest mark possible is the A+. That mark has been around in my department for some time, but it's not a mark I have ever used. However, students want to know how to turn an A into an A+.ReplyDelete
In a meeting yesterday I asked for a definition of an A+. Nobody can give me one because nobody ever saw that mark as a student.
A course mark of an A translates as a 4.0 in the 4 point system. Makes sense, right? But a course mark of an A+ also translates as a 4.0. So what the hell is an A+?
A+ = 4.5. I'm curious where you are that "nobody" saw that grade as a student or instructor. I'm in the Great White North, where universities are reputed to demand more and grade more stringently than in the US, and yet I have an undergrad transcript full of (hard-earned) A+s . . .Delete
Handing out A+'s that generate a 4.5 grade point seems unlikely. Probably, the administration is just using the + symbol to make students feel good about themselves.Delete
Have you seen the Simpson's episode where Lisa is crying because she got an A+++ and not her normal A++++Delete
We have A+s at my institution and they count as a 4.0 not a 4.5 in GPA calculation. I agree with No Cookies- it's there to make us feel good about ourselves.Delete
Deflating grades by giving "real" grades to your own students has the downside that they are penalized -- in terms of graduate school / job application -- against students whose professors inflate grades.ReplyDelete
I do not think there's a solution, the grading system is bankrupt. Which opens the enticing possibility of assessment not being a part of our jobs anymore.
Then teaching won't be either. It'll be online, robot-graded credit modules with national push-button exams, unless we convince TPTB we can effectively educate AND evaluate students.Delete
So we should give in and inflate grades since the current inflators are giving their students an occupational advantage? So two wrongs make a right? No way. How about instead of encouraging teachers to lose their integrity and start inflating grades, we encourage the inflators to STOP inflating grades? Imagine a society where grade inflators were considered the scum of the earth, which of course they are...Delete
I'm with No Cookies. High school grades don't mean much any more; class standing is more important -- except when 10% of the graduating class are valedictorians (something that's all too common these days; I've seen one instance where there were 9 valedictorians in a class of 45). Instead, colleges that have any sort of reality-based admissions are going to be forced to rely on standardized test scores.Delete
If college grades mean less and less, grad schools will also have to rely on test scores more. The GRE is pretty standard across the board anyhow.
My students who get A's at least work for them, although I did give quite a few B's last semester. I find a lot of my classes are bimodel, students either come and do the work and get it or they don't do any of that, not always a lot of trying but not getting it middle ground that I would expect.ReplyDelete
Say it with me!!!! Not in my class!
Look, for high standards to have any meaning, they have to be enforced. Grade inflators have standards too, and enforce them--but they're LOW standards. Every grade inflator out there has to ask him/herself this question: "Why are my standards so low?"ReplyDelete
Every wimpy inflator is basically an academic criminal, a total scumbag. They devalue college degrees and education in general, and they essentially misrepresent the quality of student work to students, society in general, colleges to which a student may transfer, and future employers. They degrade the academic institutions in our country, they lie to students about the quality of their academic performance, and they do it all so they won't get crappy evaluations--i.e., inflators inflate because they're cowards.
In short: IN THE LONG RUN, GRADE INFLATION HURTS EVERYONE, AND THERE IS NO VALID EXCUSE FOR IT.
OK, conceptually, I agree.Delete
But, practically, you do know the death spiral barrel we of the adjunct hoard are held over, right?
As I referenced previously, I am continually bombarded with claims of how Eve R. Y'Otherinstructor has accepted their illiterate ramblings. Yeah, I know a percentage of that is bull feathers, but it comes with such regularity accompanied by truly atrocious writing that someone ELSE is passing them along to me.
You might be visualizing your call to arms as Mel Gibson in war paint in Braveheart. What I see is the outcome, when Gibson's William Wallace is being disemboweled.
Yep. I agree with both of ye.Delete
I once gave a senior student a written apology for the failures of my colleagues, who had passed him along with sub-high-school writing skills. The dude could barely string two sentences together, and as for actually writing a coherent narrative or (shudder) argument...
Let's report their standard scores alongside the GPA.ReplyDelete
Others also argue that doling out fewer A’s and more B’s and C’s could result in harsher student evaluations, which factor into promotion and tenure decisions.ReplyDelete
Let's just cut right to the point: The solution isn't to provide class averages (sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare) but to just stop factoring evaluations into T&P decisions. And let's stop shaming grad students on the job market for not listing ALL their numeric averages from their entire graduate career.
Evaluations are the primary cause of grade inflation. But to propose that we stop taking so seriously the electronic punch cards of a bunch of teenagers is, at least in my department, considered too distasteful to be spoken in most circles. We love our evaluations! We learn SO MUCH from our students!
How about including class averages in transcripts? Or, better yet, express the grade in relation to the class average?ReplyDelete
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As Gandalf once said, "You shall not pass!"ReplyDelete
In my X years in college I've only had two instances when I thought a professor had awarded unwarranted As. The first was in an Intro to the Ancient Dog Language class where 6/8 received an A (none of us earned an A). The second was in an advanced class (Theory of Gerbil Thought) where I did not earn/deserve an A of any type yet somehow got one.ReplyDelete
The other professors I have had give students syllabi on the first day, spell out what assignments are worth X points, and follow the syllabus to a T. They don't care if you're their advisee, have the highest grade in the class, or "insert special reason to get an A here". You get what you earn.
With that said, I say tack on the class averages, historical averages, and anything else. It seems to me that it will deflate the flakes who (somehow) receive As (and thus believe they are a higher powers gift to higher education) while also awarding students who actually do "excellent" work in class. That's what an A is for in my opinion. If a professor chooses to not reserve an A for such work, then the class average would at least mark the grade as not necessarily excellent on the transcripts of their students.
"Unwarranted As"? I'll give you unwarranted As.Delete
We have a tenured professor who doesn't believe in grading, so s/h/it gives everyone an A. It came up at tenure time; s/h/it was awarded tenure anyway. What's the diff? All our dumb-as-rocks education majors get As too.
A reader says:ReplyDelete
Discussions of grade inflation (or "grade compression," I like that) always seem to miss the underlying argument: what are grades for in the first place and do they accomplish that? If they're for motivation, they're clearly pretty useless. If they're for labeling inherent talent, then we've got the wrong job descriptions, since we're supposedly educators and not talent scouts. If they're for determining who has excelled in class work, a good professor should indeed be giving a lot of high ones, because that would mean a lot of students were engaged. Or it means that the professor just hands out A's to avoid grade appeals and have the summer off.
My solution is simple: get rid of the tea partying grades and replace them with two grades: Excellent and Incomplete. If the student did excellent work, they get the credit. If they didn't, they do the course over again until they do. This system would guarantee learning, avoid inflation, and make grade appeals a heck of a lot shorter.