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The most prestigious schools to the sight of top professionals schools:


Replies to: The most prestigious schools to the sight of top professionals schools:

  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    Regarding other schools, Princeton certainly experienced intraschool grade inflation before they implemented their deflation policy in 2004. Interestingly enough, intraschool inflation still persists even post-policy, just at a reduced level.

    Historically, students in the natural sciences were graded far more rigorously, for example, than their classmates in the humanities, a gap that has narrowed but that still exists.

    At Princeton University, Grumbling About Grade Deflation - NYTimes.com
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    Here's a discussion of Harvard:

    The findings of a report released last week by Harvard University stating that grade inflation is a problem at the institution are similar to the findings of a report released by UNC professors last year stating that the problem exists at UNC.

    According to the report, half of all grades awarded to Harvard undergraduates are A's or A-'s.

    The report adds that the humanities have the biggest problem with grade inflation, with A's and A-'s making up almost two-thirds of grades awarded in small humanities classes.

    The Daily Tar Heel :: Grade Inflation Makes Marks at Harvard
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member

    One of the problems is the fact that grade inflation occurs more frequently in some distributional groups than others, thus giving an advantage to students in certain majors. Amy Ng, CC '96, one of the panelists, said, "There is a big division between humanities and social science courses."

    Jeffrey Powell, director of undergraduate studies in biology, agreed that grade inflation is disproportional in some majors. Powell said that he has not observed grade inflation in his department, saying, "I think we've been pretty stable in grading for the past few years." He added that it is fairly difficult to get very high grades in biology, saying that it "tends to be one of the tougher majors."

    However, Powell said he found problems with grade inflation's prevalence in other areas of study. In a number of instances, biology students have told him that they were going to switch majors because they thought that they could obtain better grades in a non-science field, he said. There should be more "uniformity among the departments" in terms of grading, according to Powell.

    Panel discusses implications of grade inflation for Yalies

    In fall 2004, the University’s Science Council engaged in an informal review of grading across different courses in the sciences, which found that grades tend to be lower in the sciences than they are in the humanities and social sciences.

    Poll suggests grade inflation | Yale Daily News
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    ...Science students get worse grades than non-science students.

    No comprehensive data for the distribution of grades around the nation by discipline exists, but in 1998 the
    College Board surveyed a representative sample of 21 selective institutions to find out how students who
    took Advanced Placement courses in high school were performing in college. The data show that, when
    students who got AP credit and were taking second-level college courses (as opposed to intro classes)
    were compared, non-science students got much better grades.

    In English courses surveyed, 85 percent of those high-achieving students that were surveyed received
    A’s or B’s. That’s compared to 54 percent of those students in math courses.

    Paul Romer, an economics professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, who has
    studied the issue, wrote in an article for Stanford Business that “the grades assigned in science courses
    are systematically lower than grades in other disciplines
    , and students rely heavily on grades as signals about the fields for which they are best suited.” Thus, he concluded, students usher themselves out of the
    science track

    Data from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles show
    that, in 2004, about 9 percent of freshman students nationally planned to major in engineering, and 2
    percent planned to major in physical sciences. Those numbers are pretty typical for the last two decades,
    and what is also typical, according to National Science Foundation data, is that it is not uncommon for fewer than half of those intended majors to stay the course.

    It seems that the attrition rate in the physical sciences and engineering is chronically higher than in
    social and behavioral sciences. According to the NSF, only about 4.5 percent of bachelor’s degrees were
    awarded in engineering in 2004, and only about 1 percent in the physical sciences. Conversely,
    depending on the demographic, generally between 8 and 15 percent of freshmen intend to major in
    social and behavioral sciences, for which degrees made up 16 percent of the 2004 total.

    Romer isn’t the only one that thinks unequal grading practices drive students from science. Ronald G.
    Ehrenberg, director of Cornell University’s Higher Education Research Institute and an economics
    professor there, recalled a student who got an 85 on a test, which was above the mean, coming up to him
    and saying, “I’m dropping your class, because the best I can do is an A-, and I’m going to Stanford Law
    School.” Part of the problem Ehrenberg said, is that students who want to keep law school as an option
    will tend away from quantitative courses because it’s clear to them that disproportionate grade inflation
    in the humanities and less quantitative social sciences will give them a boost

    With Web sites like ratemyprofessors.com, students can instantly find out how “easy” other students
    think a certain professor is. A 2002 Cornell Higher Education Research Institute study showed that
    grades in Cornell’s science courses are generally several tenths lower than other courses, and a 2005
    institute study found that, presented with information on the grading, students will flock to the easier
    courses, driving grade inflation even more.

    In 1996, worried that they were giving lower grades than professors at competitor institutions, faculty members decided that Cornell should publish the median course grades for every course, every semester,
    so that faculty members could see the distribution of grades, and, presumably, adjust if a particular
    course’s median grade is too low. Not surprisingly, students started turning to the list, and according to
    the 2005 institute study, the list started looking different in a hurry, as students migrated en masse to
    easier courses. By spring 2005, the list shows that, of over 1,300 courses, fewer than 20 had median
    grades of B- or lower.

    Weeding Out: Several experts suggested that the culture of scientists has kept science grades down,
    while science students at many institutions have watched longingly as humanities grades have drifted up
    and away like a helium balloon.

    “There’s a difficult culture here,” said Daryl Chubin, director of the American Association for the
    Advancement of Sciences’ Center for Advancing Science & Engineering Capacity. “The culture of
    science says, ‘not everybody is good enough to cut it, and we’re going to make it hard for them, and the
    cream will rise to the top.’ ”

    Ehrenberg said that some scientists are starting to drop the “weed out” mentality, but Chubin still sees
    decade old themes. “I took a Ph.D. in 1973,” Chubin said, “and people were saying the same thing then.
    ‘Look to your left, look to your right, some of you will be gone.’

    There’s a joy of attrition;
    demonstrating your manliness, back then it was all manliness, by failing students.”

  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    A new study from Wake Forest University suggests that a huge reason why so many students abandon their pursuit of science and engineering majors is this: Their professors are grading too hard.

    Students, who hope to be science and engineering majors, get discouraged by their grades, which are significantly lower than students in other disciplines. Consequently, they flee for easier “A’s”. Male students are more likely to bail because of grades than would-be women STEM majors.

    ...science geeks earned grades that were consistently below other students. Brainy STEM graduates left their school with four out of the five lowest grade point averages:

    5 Lowest Grade Point Averages

    Chemistry 2.78 GPA
    Math 2.90 GPA
    Economics 2.95 GPA
    Psychology 2.98 GPA
    Biology 3.02 GPA

    5 Highest Grade Point Averages

    Education 3.36 GPA
    Language 3.34 GPA
    English 3.33 GPA
    Music 3.30 GPA
    Religion 3.22 GPA

    At a recent conference at Cornell, Rask talked about his STEM major findings:

    “The importance of grades can’t be understated,” the economist said. “The differential in grade inflation inside and outside STEM majors is consistent and an important factor in the attrition.”

    It seems to me that the best way to produce more scientists and engineers might be to get the professors in those fields to lighten up on their grades. Do the students, who are brave enough to wrestle with organic chemistry and multivariable calculus, need to be crushed at exam time?

    The alternative is to get the professors in departments like education and English to grade harder, but I just don’t see that ever happening....

    5 Hardest and Easiest College Majors by GPA’s - CBS MoneyWatch.com
  • phantasmagoricphantasmagoric Registered User Posts: 2,200 Senior Member
    I wonder just how significant this attrition in the sciences actually is. They complain that there's an exodus to the humanities, while the humanities complain that there's an exodus to the sciences! Which is it? Or is everyone moving to the social sciences, a nice happy medium?

    Stanford launches effort to increase study of humanities | Stanford Daily
  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,513 Senior Member
    Hitting closer to home, one of my daughter's acquaintances double majored in mathematics and a social science at an LAC. This was a top math student in HS with humongous math SATs.The student's GPA in math subjects wound up being one full GPA point lower than the rest. Which is now a problem re: future options, with overall GPA looking relatively unimpressive for law school. The student was warned about this, but the school is one of those "learning for learning's sake" places. Many other students, particularly elsewhere, would have dropped the math major well before this result came to pass, and who could say they would be wrong to do so?
  • bluebayoubluebayou Registered User Posts: 24,468 Senior Member
    The feds have doled out $$ millions in research to study why the US lags in STEM graduates. Perhaps the answer is just that simple: "intraschool grade inflation".

    On a cc thread a couple of years ago, a prof/dad was complaining about the lack of STEM students -- he was a Chem prof, I believe. In response to his post I asked point-blank what his 'curve' was, what his college's curve was and why his department made students work much, much harder for lower grades relative to lit/hume courses. (A one-unit Chem lab can easily require more work for an A than many three-unit Lit courses.) He got the point, but unfortunately failed to respond.
  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,432 Senior Member
    While many facts stated in the last 10-20 posts are true, there is an issue that is obscured by the raw statistics. That issue is that students select classes, not only because they could obtain a higher grade, but also because they are BETTER suited to the material in the curriculum.

    There is no denying that most Americans are barely able to pass a class in Organic Chemistry or MV Calculus, but do we really believe that the foreigners, or local students who navigated through HS without writing a single paper and happen to excel in such classes would earn a better grade in creative writing or even ... basic English Lit or Rhetoric? Who is there to say that the same student would get a higher GPA in classes that APPEAR easier to ... different students? How many students are there who prefer taking "hard classes" that require only weekly assignments and a couple of exams over classes that require a large number of essays and no final exam? For some techies, having to write a 2,000 word essay is nothing short of torture; earning a reasonable grade an accomplishment! Of course, there are always exceptions, and plenty of students who would ace every class they'd take.

    While students who have little interest in a STEM career would fear to HAVE to take more math and sciences classes, the same could be said for techies having to take advanced "fuzzy" classes. Since someone quoted Stanford's GSB, it might be worth noting that Stanford is currently reevaluating its course selection and discussing how classes such as IHUM are grade-killers for techies.

    Fwiw, there is a reason why students are attracted to universities that have dropped core requirements. One of the reason goes directly at the lacking preparation given to students during their K-12 years. The STEM "problem" starts way earlier than in the college years.
  • eastcoascrazyeastcoascrazy Registered User Posts: 2,366 Senior Member
    Xiggi, you took the words right out of my mouth. Great post.
  • bluebayoubluebayou Registered User Posts: 24,468 Senior Member

    you are correct in the aggregate. But this discussion is generally on top schools which require both strong math/science skills and strong English skills for admissions. Why does HYS award two-thirds A's in hume/lit and one-third in STEM? Why does Cal Berkeley flunk out Engineers -- who had top math grades to get accepted, while "Studies" majors can cruise by with the PC responses?
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    I wonder just how significant this attrition in the sciences actually is. They complain that there's an exodus to the humanities, while the humanities complain that there's an exodus to the sciences! Which is it? Or is everyone moving to the social sciences, a nice happy medium?

    Stanford launches effort to increase study of humanities | Stanford Daily

    Actually, that's not 'attrition', at least, not the way that we've been defined it. Attrition consists of people who start in a certain major and then switch to another due to poor grades (or the fear of such grades).

    What your link is talking about is the fact that some students don't even try out humanities majors in the first place. However, how many students start out in the humanities, then receive failing grades that forces them to flee to refuge in engineering or the sciences? I would say that the answer is pretty close to 0%. {Heck, how many humanities students, even the worst ones, receive failing grades at all?}
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    While many facts stated in the last 10-20 posts are true, there is an issue that is obscured by the raw statistics. That issue is that students select classes, not only because they could obtain a higher grade, but also because they are BETTER suited to the material in the curriculum.

    Actually, I'm afraid that your analysis does not hold, and indeed the data diametrically falsifies your analysis. After all, if it was really true that students self-selected themselves to classes in which they would perform well, then you should see no difference in grading schemes, right? After all, the students who are adroit in humanities would select humanities majors, the students who are adroit in engineering/science courses would select engineering/science courses. Since everybody would have selected the courses/majors that correspond to their strengths at an equivalent rate, grading distributions should be similar across all disciplines, right? So then why does such a large disparity between the grading in humanities/arts and STEM courses exist?

    If self-selection is indeed the only answer, then that self-selection must be anomalously asymmetric in nature. Far more students who are humanities-oriented must be "mis-self-selecting" into STEM, relative to the number of STEM-oriented students who are "mis-self-selecting" into humanities. That's why humanities courses tend to give out few if any failing grades, relative to the STEM courses. But that only raises the question: why would students asymmetrically mis-self-select into STEM? Why wouldn't any mis-self-selection be evenly spread, or even be asymmetric in the other direction?

    The argument for pure self-selection as the only answer becomes even more implausible when you consider the fact that the grading disparities seem to exist across the whole country. Pop quiz: name me some schools where the humanities/arts majors are considered to be the most harshly graded and most demanding majors, such that many students try them, perform poorly and henceforth flee to the 'easier' engineering and science majors instead? It's hard to think of even a single such school. Hence, if self-selection was the only answer, why would that self-selection not only be asymmetric, but seem to exist consistently across all schools? Put another way, why do many humanities-oriented students at every school consistently err in choosing unsuitable STEM majors, but STEM-oriented students at every school never really seem to err in choosing unsuitable humanities majors?

    Hence, self-selection is not the explanatory factor. Indeed, if anything, I suspect that self-selection is actually a moderating factor. I can agree that students will probably receive a poor grade if forced to take a course for which they are unsuited. But what is the definition of a 'poor grade'? In the humanities courses, that probably means a B, or at worse a C. In other words, if we forced all engineering/science students to major in humanities instead, some of them might receive poor grades, but they'd still probably pass. They'd still graduate. {And I suspect that many more such students would actually receive higher grades than they are currently receiving in their STEM courses.} On the other hand, poor grades in STEM courses can easily mean failing grades, particularly in the weeders. In other words, many humanities students who were forced to take STEM courses would probably flunk out entirely. That dramatically demonstrates the difference in grade distributions.

    I remember many engineering students who were close to honors GPA thresholds would would load up on with as many humanities courses as possible in order to boost their GPA above that threshold. I can't think of a single humanities student who loads up on engineering courses in their final year in order to boost their GPA. Heck, I know one engineer - in his final semester - who took a single engineering course (the last he needed for graduation), along with a bunch of 'elective' humanities courses, and he had to put in more work in that lone engineering course than in all of those humanities courses combined...and received a lower grade in that engineering course to boot. I wonder if anybody has the opposite anecdote: a humanities student taking a single humanities course in his final semester along with a bunch of 'elective' engineering courses, and was forced to work harder in that lone humanities course than in all of those engineering courses combined, while still receiving a lower grade. {Heck, I think it's difficult just to find a humanities student who would ever take any elective engineering courses at all, let alone finding one who actually receives higher grades for less combined work in those engineering courses than in his humanities courses.}
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    Why does Cal Berkeley flunk out Engineers -- who had top math grades to get accepted, while "Studies" majors can cruise by with the PC responses?

    I seem to recall a link that showed that Berkeley's students in the College of Engineering had higher average SAT Verbal/CR scores, and similar scores in SAT Writing compared to students in L&S. I wish I could find that link. That seems to suggest that engineering students may be just as qualified in the humanities as the L&S students are.
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    with overall GPA looking relatively unimpressive for law school.

    And I think that's the core problem. Law school (and other professional school) adcoms should stop using absolute GPA's to determine admission. Ideally, what they should do is compare discipline GPA's against each other, and not against other disciplines (hence electrical engineers who apply to law school would be compared to other electrical engineers).

    But professional school adcoms apparently recalcitrantly refuse to take even this simple step. So I think that undergraduate programs should consider responding by providing 'cleansed' transcripts for its STEM students that effectively provides them with a GPA boost to increase their competitiveness. This cleansed transcript would be the one that is sent to LSDAS, AMCAS, and other such professional school adcom clearing houses for which the admissions consistently refuse to take grade disparities amongst majors into account. For example, the cleansed transcript might simply delete all STEM grades that are below a certain threshold (i.e. below a 'B'), or convert them to P (Pass) grades. Or the students could be given the choice of nominating X number of courses whose grades could be deleted from their cleansed transcript. {Note, the 'real' transcript' would not be affected in any way, the only transcript that would be affected is the 'cleansed' one that is sent to LSDAS/AMCAS.}

    Outrageous? I don't think that's any more outrageous than the practice at MIT of having two versions of your transcript, the 'internal' transcript that contains all of your grades, and the 'external' transcript that is sent to employers and grad-school adcoms that withholds certain pieces of information, notably any failed freshman grades. In other words, employers and grad-schools have no idea that an MIT applicant might have failed certain courses in their first year. That external transcript is effectively a 'cleansed' transcript. If it's not outrageous for MIT to provide cleansed transcripts to boost the prospects of its students, why can't other schools do the same?

    If professional school adcoms persist in misinterpreting and abusing information that is provided to them about their applicants, then I think it is entirely justified for undergrad programs to deny them that information. Sometimes you gotta fight fire with fire.
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