Monday, August 10, 2009

Grade Inflation

or... No wonder it seems like the "ΦΒΚ Wheelhouse" is getting crowded.

Two SigEps who are highly respected in the field of education and also active volunteers referred us to this site on grade inflation over the last several years.

The figure above shows the average undergraduate GPAs for American colleges and universities from 1991-2006...

In the 1930s, the average GPA at American colleges and universities was about 2.35, a number that corresponds with data compiled by W. Perry in 1943. By the 1950s, the average GPA was about 2.52. GPAs took off in the 1960s with grades at private schools rising faster than public schools, lulled in the 1970s, and began to rise again in the 1980s at a rate of about 0.10 to 0.15 increase in GPA per decade. The grade inflation that began in the 1980s has yet to end.

The trends present for the average curves above are also present for most of the individual schools. Over the last 50 years, GPAs have increased by roughly 0.1 to 0.2 per decade (on the high end for private schools and on the low end for public schools), a rate that is consistent with the trends over the 16 years noted in the first figure.
The overall picture that this well researched article paints suggests that a hard and fast GPA goal is not and should not be a "one size fits all" determinant. In fact the data suggests that grade inflation is most prevalent in the expensive private schools. Using the "wheelhouse" as a comparative device actually stacks the deck against state and other public schools, which have shown less tendency toward grade increases.

A more disturbing idea is that schools are allowing more lax grading standards because it makes the graduates seem more desirable, After all, a Yale grad with a 3.5 GPA has to be better prepared for a career than someone from Auburn with a 3.15, right? Well, maybe not.