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    #176410 - 12/04/13 05:52 AM College grade inflation
    Bostonian Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2638
    Loc: MA
    http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/12/3/grade-inflation-mode-a/
    Substantiating Fears of Grade Inflation, Dean Says Median Grade at Harvard College Is A-, Most Common Grade Is A
    By MATTHEW Q. CLARIDA and NICHOLAS P. FANDOS
    Harvard Crimson
    December 4, 2013

    The median grade at Harvard College is an A-, and the most frequently awarded mark is an A, Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris said on Tuesday afternoon, supporting suspicions that the College employs a softer grading standard than many of its peer institutions.

    Harris delivered the information in response to a question from government professor Harvey C. Mansfield ’53 at the monthly meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

    “A little bird has told me that the most frequently given grade at Harvard College right now is an A-,” Mansfield said during the meeting’s question period. “If this is true or nearly true, it represents a failure on the part of this faculty and its leadership to maintain our academic standards.”

    Harris then stood and looked towards FAS Dean Michael D. Smith in hesitation.

    “I can answer the question, if you want me to.” Harris said. “The median grade in Harvard College is indeed an A-. The most frequently awarded grade in Harvard College is actually a straight A.”

    Harris said after the meeting that the data on grading standards is from fall 2012 and several previous semesters.

    In an email to The Crimson after the meeting, Mansfield wrote that he was “not surprised but rather further depressed” by Harris’s answer.

    “Nor was I surprised at the embarrassed silence in the whole room and especially at the polished table (as I call it),” Mansfield added, referencing the table at the front of the room where top administrators sit. “The present grading practice is indefensible.”

    *****************************************************

    Students, including Harvard students, need realistic feedback about their abilities and the quality of work they have done, and grade inflation impedes this. According to http://www.gradeinflation.com/ , there has been more grade inflation at private than public colleges.

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    #176414 - 12/04/13 06:49 AM Re: College grade inflation [Re: Bostonian]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4956
    Originally Posted By: Bostonian
    Students, including Harvard students, need realistic feedback about their abilities and the quality of work they have done, and grade inflation impedes this. According to http://www.gradeinflation.com/ , there has been more grade inflation at private than public colleges.
    Thank you for posting this. This dovetails with a bit o' research I found while considering an aspect of the OP's question on a related thread.

    Reading from How College Affects Students, Vol 2, A Third Decade of Research, Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005, page 76:
    Quote:
    Our 1991 synthesis found little consistent evidence indicating that measures of institutional quality or environmental characteristics had more than small, and generally trivial, net influences on how much a student learns during college. When pre-college traits were controlled statistically...
    and page 77:
    Quote:
    We uncovered 10 studies based on three independent samples that investigated the impact of college selectivity on various standardized measures of academic achievement. Consistent with our 1991 synthesis, the weight of evidence from these studies provides little support for the premise that attendance at a selective institution has a consistent and substantial positive influence on how much one learns - at least as measured by standardized tests...
    GRE may be the standard test referred to as it is referenced several times in that chapter, beginning on page 65. Buy the book, it is a fascinating and multi-faceted compendium of studies.

    What is revealed by this research seems to give rise to the "Colleges That Change Lives" movement (published 1996, revised 2000) and the plethora of college rankings including U.S. News, Forbes... encouraging students, parents, high school guidance counselors, and prospective employers to seek out and acknowledge quality everywhere, not regard the ivies as the last bastion of higher education.


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    #177303 - 12/16/13 06:25 AM Re: College grade inflation [Re: Bostonian]
    Bostonian Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2638
    Loc: MA
    I think this is an interesting essay explaining the prevalence of grade inflation (and mentioning a way to combat it) -- it is the path of least resistance for professors and teaching assistants.

    http://qz.com/157579/confession-of-an-ivy-league-teaching-assistant-heres-why-i-inflated-grades/
    Confession of an Ivy League teaching assistant: Here’s why I inflated grades
    By Allison Schrager
    Quartz
    December 13, 2013

    Quote:
    I did my undergraduate work in Britain, where grade inflation is less of a problem. That’s because the brunt of your grade came from a single essay at the end of the year. These exams are double marked, by your professor and one at another university, to ensure uniform national standards. That not only kept grade inflation in check, but the culture of complaining too. I would have been considered presumptuous to question the judgment of two professors.

    That may not be realistic at research universities in America, as the British grading system is very time intensive and universities there are more teaching and less research oriented. But it’s worth consideration as US colleges grapple with keeping standards, one campus to another.


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    #177304 - 12/16/13 06:31 AM Re: College grade inflation [Re: Bostonian]
    ultramarina Offline
    Member

    Registered: 08/24/10
    Posts: 3428
    I felt my grades on papers were inflated at my private college back in the '90s. It was a little disheartening, to be perfectly honest. I was secretly relieved to get Bs at times.

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    #177305 - 12/16/13 06:33 AM Re: College grade inflation [Re: Bostonian]
    ultramarina Offline
    Member

    Registered: 08/24/10
    Posts: 3428
    I think it can be easier to give an A, because a lower grade requires more feedback as to why the lower grade was given (especially in the current culture of "Why didn't I get an A?"--something I would NEVER, EVER have done).

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    #177312 - 12/16/13 08:03 AM Re: College grade inflation [Re: Bostonian]
    Val Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3296
    Loc: California
    The New York Times had a major scoop yesterday on this subject.

    Originally Posted By: Secret Harvard document leaked in NY Times!
    The A+ grade is used only in very rare instances for the recognition of truly exceptional achievement.

    For example: A term paper receiving the A+ is virtually indistinguishable from the work of a professional, both in its choice of paper stock and its font. The student’s command of the topic is expert, or at the very least intermediate, or beginner.


    The story goes on to expose more of the abstrusities (is that a word?) of grading at Harvard. Now you know.

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    #177323 - 12/16/13 09:08 AM Re: College grade inflation [Re: Bostonian]
    HowlerKarma Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/05/11
    Posts: 5181
    choice of paper stock and its font


    Wow.

    _________________________
    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

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    #177325 - 12/16/13 09:19 AM Re: College grade inflation [Re: Val]
    momosam Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/10/12
    Posts: 78
    Loc: southeast US
    .


    Edited by momosam (12/16/13 09:22 AM)
    Edit Reason: nm

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    #177327 - 12/16/13 09:28 AM Re: College grade inflation [Re: Val]
    kcab Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/02/07
    Posts: 1603
    Loc: Sparta, apparently
    Originally Posted By: Val
    The New York Times had a major scoop yesterday on this subject.
    *snort* - that was a good one to cheer up a Monday morning!
    _________________________
    kcab

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    #177339 - 12/16/13 10:22 AM Re: College grade inflation [Re: Val]
    Dude Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/11
    Posts: 2856
    Originally Posted By: Val
    The New York Times had a major scoop yesterday on this subject.


    I give this article a B.

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