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Grade inflation causes concern

February 10, 2011

For the past thirty years, grades and grade point averages in private and public universities have risen significantly.

With that, inflation with the education system regarding grades has risen in even the past decade, says Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Fernando Delgado.

With a new semester in swing, students should be aware that the ‘A’ they are striving for may not be as big a deal as they once thought it was.

Delgado explains that it is not in the students interest to worry so much about the grade in the class.

“The reason why there is an inflation is because students today are focused on the number, not the learning outcome.”

John Bullis, a junior at the UW-River Falls campus majoring in Digital Films and TV Communications, said that in the past three years of college, he has learned a lot from the more difficult graders. Being an ‘A’ and ‘B’ student, he said sometimes it is easy to get good grades, but there are some professors that
make the student work hard for their grade.

“I may have had a C in my English class from this harder teacher, but he made me a learn a lot,”said Bullis.

Delgado said that students desire to get a higher grade in order to have a better GPA. Grade inflation is caused by the increase over time of academic grades, faster than any real increase in standards.

He also commented that what may come about in the future may be more damaging to the education system in the long run if standards are not changed.

“There needs to be a balance between grade inflation and devaluation,” Delgado said.

At the UWRF campus, there is a minimum requirement of a 3.5 GPA to make the dean’s list. Within the last eight years, 1,215 students were on the dean’s list in 2003 with a student population of 5,423.

In the Fall of 2010, 1,316 students had reached this GPA with a student population of 6,373.

With more students receiving better grades and being able to reach the GPA requirement for the dean’s list, teachers and professors take notice and question whether students are getting smarter or if it is due to grade inflation.

Assistant Registrar Rich Kathan studied the effects of grade inflation back in the 1970s while finishing his degree in 1976.

Through his study for his thesis, which was a culminating project for a Master of Science in Education from UW-LaCrosse, he went into great depth to understand exactly what it is and what causes it.

He researched over 10 years of data and found that it was not really an issue at the UWRF campus, but today it may be.

“There was no significant grade inflation at the time here,” said Kathan, “but data now suggests that it has changed significantly over time.”

In the past 10 years, research has shown that here on campus, the average GPA was 2.875, with a standard GPA requirement of 2.25 this past year. Since Kathan has done his research, the average GPA in the 1970s up until 1980 was 2.745.

After reviewing this data, there is a slight inflation on our campus, which means that the value of an ‘A’ grade in a class has minorly dropped since the 1970s, according to Kathan’s research.

What some colleges have done to reverse the inflation is to have no grades in their educational curriculum at all.

Alverno College in Milwaukee has no grading system.

What their curriculum is formed on is “ability-based education.”

This entails a student to gain learning experience through terms of abilities needed for effectiveness in the worlds of work, family and civic community.

Some of the abilities that they gain through this system is communication, analysis, problem solving and value in decision-making, as their website described.

What most colleges have done to avoid this inflation, rather than changing their entire curriculum, they have evaluated the system and have found techniques to keep encouraging students in their studies.

Teachers’ and professors’ ultimate goal is for the student to leave the class with something as Delgado explained.

“The real question that we, as teachers, ask is, ‘Are the students learning?’” said Delgado.