gibby, that's a glib comment but one that is invested in a greater reality. Far from indicating lower grading standards, a rising average GPA is more likely indicative of higher admission standards.
Back c. 1976, when Yale admitted more than 26% of its applicants, it would have been easier to make distinctions between the performance of the individual members of its classes. But now, with admission rates of 7.5%, presumably most of the lower 70% of those students in the matriculant pools who used to earn the bulk of the B's and C's are now gone. Even since 2000 selectivity has more than doubled (halved?) from the 16.2% it was then. Is it then difficult to believe the old standards once used for grading are now being met by more and more students? Forcing a new curve, so to speak, on this population is more likely to result in more capricious and arbitrary grades than in justifiably increased requirements, just as it has done to render today's admissions decisions increasingly serendipitous.
Last edited by Descartesz; 10-23-2012 at 03:06 PM.
I don't think we are in disagreement. There is also another comment at the bottom of that article that I found intriguing:
"The fundamental problem with grades is that different people take them to be indicative of two entirely different things - (1) an evaluation of your performance relative to expectations, and (2) an evaluation of your performance relative to your potential. The former incentivizes grade inflation, because the higher you perform relative to expectations the greater the job opportunities you will gain. The latter in contrast incentivizes grade deflation, because as Kagan notes a full grade range is needed to indicate where a student lies relative to his or her own potential. This tension between the purpose of grades, both as a tool to quantify your abilities and as a tool to encourage greater effort to reach new heights, causes significant confusion in interpreting what a grade actually means and what grades students actually deserve.
The solution to this problem seems to me obvious - remove the confusion by having two different scales. The first scale would be a simple gauge of the student's performance relative to expectations. A student meeting expectations should receive an A, with the grade dropping downward the farther from meeting expectations the student falls. The second scale would be a gauge of the student's performance relative to what the professor believes to be the student's level of potential, and could have values like BP and AP for below and above potential, respectively. This scale could be expanded to accomodate other points on the spectrum, but its basic purpose is only for the student's self-growth.
The first objection to this system one might raise is that it fails to distinguish the students who shine far beyond the A mark from those who just barely make the cut. But I would argue that it isn't the job of the professor to pit students against each other by reducing the grade of a student who truly made the cut because another student exceeded it. If you want to recognize a student who exceeded expectations, do so by writing glowing comments or awarding him for academic excellence. But penalizing people who deserve A's because of other students who are far beyond the level of the class isn't ethical.
The second objection would be that if students could be sure to get an A just by meeting expectations the desire for self-improvement wouldn't be enough to ensure that they push their limits. Call me naive, but I thought the point of Yale's whole rigorous admissions process was to weed out the students who are not self-motivated and who authentically aspire to expand their abilities? (Why else would so many students subject themselves to the torture of Directed Studies?) I also think that the approach of motivating students by making making A's nearly impossible to achieve is unhealthy and stress-inducing - students should be prompted to push their limits by academic zeal and a lust for learning, not anxiety about a lower GPA and the doors it might close."
Grade deflation is idiotic. It's one of the reasons I like schools like Brown and Yale better than Princeton. All grade deflation does is increase student's stress levels and lowers their grad school and career prospects. I read that Princeton is also reevaluating their policies around grading to move away from deflation.
Kdog glad for your latest comment. My kid is in STEM as well and I agree with you. My impression is that what Princeton did was more to equalize things *across* majors. That is, the new policy made next to no difference in the average grades in science classes; it mainly lowered the average grade in other disciplines.