Grade Inflation Ineffectively Prepares Students for the Real World


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Anticipation as a ballon rolls over a pin ready to burst

Caitlin DeBoy, Staff Writer

This year, colleges across the country had lowered acceptance rates and heightened competition. Much of the blame for this is grade inflation. Grade inflation is a rise in average grades due to heightened scores on tests and assignments, many times higher than they should be. Grade inflation not only makes it increasingly difficult to get accepted into colleges, but it also ineffectively prepares students for the real world. 


According to Seth Gershenson, a professor at American University,¨Grade inflation clouds measures of students´ true knowledge and skills. This means grades may mislead students, parents, and subsequent educators — not to mention potential employers and policymakers — about how children and schools are performing.¨ Grades serve as accurate predictors for students´ college performances, which assist colleges and universities in acceptance decisions. Also, when students who had falsely high grades actually need to apply their skills, they will be unable to do so due to the fact that they passed certain classes without actually learning and comprehending the amount of material needed. 


Policies such as redos, minimum grade amounts, extra credit, and curves, although helpful and necessary in certain circumstances and amounts, lead to grade inflation when there are unlimited redos, high grade minimums, very generous curves, etc. The limiting of these policies, such as a maximum amount of redos (as done in AACPS), low grade minimums, and predetermined curves all limit the drastic effect these policies can have on grades. 


According to the Department of Education, in 1990, the average high school grade point average (GPA) was 2.68, whereas by 2016, it was 3.38. In just 26 years, the average GPA rose almost one entire point. This is most likely due to the softer grading policies and falsely high assignment scores.


Although some would argue that grade inflation provides more students with opportunities to get into better colleges, get into more competitive jobs, etc, in reality grade inflation shields the fact that many students didn´t fully grasp concepts from a class. This will come back to harm students when/if they are unable to perform well in careers, graduate school, or even college. If grade inflation decreases, teachers would more easily be able to find gaps in students’ learning, fill those gaps, and then more successfully prepare students for their futures.