College grade inflation

Posted by: Bostonian

College grade inflation - 12/04/13 05:52 AM

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.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 12/04/13 06:49 AM

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.

Posted by: Bostonian

Re: College grade inflation - 12/16/13 06:25 AM

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.

Posted by: ultramarina

Re: College grade inflation - 12/16/13 06:31 AM

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.
Posted by: ultramarina

Re: College grade inflation - 12/16/13 06:33 AM

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).
Posted by: Val

Re: College grade inflation - 12/16/13 08:03 AM

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.
Posted by: HowlerKarma

Re: College grade inflation - 12/16/13 09:08 AM

choice of paper stock and its font


Wow.

Posted by: momosam

Re: College grade inflation - 12/16/13 09:19 AM

.
Posted by: kcab

Re: College grade inflation - 12/16/13 09:28 AM

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!
Posted by: Dude

Re: College grade inflation - 12/16/13 10:22 AM

Originally Posted By: Val
The New York Times had a major scoop yesterday on this subject.


I give this article a B.
Posted by: Edwin

Re: College grade inflation - 12/18/13 11:56 AM

Not sure if it’s all grade inflation, you would think that at a top tier school with so called top tier students a good portion would still be great students in college. Not all though. Using a percentage is just as wrong. How about being very proficient with the materiel regardless of the percent of students participating? Assuming the material is at the level it needs to be.
Posted by: HowlerKarma

Re: College grade inflation - 12/18/13 12:14 PM

I agree to some extent, Edwin-- but as my DH quickly noted when I mentioned this phenomenon--

statistically, it seems somewhat unlikely that MOST students attending even an "elite" institution have so little to learn that they are earning A's at everything.

I agree with him. While I loathe the application of normal distributions in determining grades in a college cohort (well, any cohort, really, because I subscribe to mastery-oriented benchmarking there), I also know from experience that students TEND to distribute themselves more or less into a normal distribution in introductory coursework, and a top-heavy version of it later on in upper-division courses.

I've never taught an undergraduate class where 90% or more of students earned some kind of A, and my grading always allowed for it. Now, one can certainly argue that the quality of students I was seeing was significantly different from the average at Harvard, and that's probably true, but still-- the students from there that I've rubbed elbows with at meetings sure didn't come across as THAT much different.

The highest percentage I ever personally saw was 14 A/A- grades in a class with 32 students in it. I thought that was very high-- but what the heck, they had mastered what I set for them, so there it was. KWIM? Even so, the average that term was still an 82%. There were just a lot of really great students in that particular section, which overlaid the regular distribution. But that regular distribution was most certainly still PRESENT.

So I'd say that it may beg the question of either methodology/integrity of assessment or, as Edwin noted, the level of the curricular offering.


I know someone who was TOLD to reevaluate a final exam in an undergraduate chemistry course at an Ivy whilst a graduate teaching assistant there. The student in question was the daughter of a former Atty. General. The college dean very clearly told the grad assistant that "there has clearly been a misunderstanding" regarding the undergraduate's (well-deserved) low C grade on that exam. Apparently, it would need to be "looked at again" unless it were an A.

That was in the mid-90's, by the way.
Posted by: Zen Scanner

Re: College grade inflation - 12/18/13 12:35 PM

But it's a question of the function of grades...
Are their purpose to manipulate students into doing particular things?
Should they represent whether a student mastered the material of a course? per the instructor? per the department? per the school? per a universal standard?
Maybe it represents mastery of the methodology of a future career? or the material plus some meta-skills?
Is it a feedback mechanism for students to gauge their own efforts?
Is it a competitive mechanic within the domain of the classroom? within the domain of the school? within society?
A message from an instructor to future employers as to the usefulness of the student?
A semi-competitive sorting mechanism?
A message about the quality of the school? quality of the instructor? challenge of the course?

A single numerical grade would be awkward to combine any two of these into something meaningful. Let alone the significant quantity of these that seem to be a part of the mix.

Posted by: 22B

Re: College grade inflation - 12/18/13 07:21 PM

This guy must've been scared he was only going to get an A minus.
http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/18/justice/massachusetts-harvard-hoax/index.html?hpt=hp_t3
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/14/19 08:58 AM

Updating this thread, for future readers, by pointing to a post with an article, "Is grade inflation a real problem?"

Possibly conversation could continue here, or on a new thread, to avoid veering off-topic on the Ivy League Admissions thread. smile
Posted by: mckinley

Re: College grade inflation - 03/14/19 09:00 AM

When you've read the article, I'd love to know what you think.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/14/19 07:02 PM

Originally Posted By: indigo
Originally Posted By: mckinley
When you've read the article, I'd love to know what you think.
Short answer: Apples and oranges! Varied time periods! College grades vs. IQ scores!

Longer answer: The author has an interesting and far-ranging discussion but I personally do not see it as building to a conclusion. Rather it reminds me of so many magazine articles which consider various aspects but remain open-ended and questioning.

The title does not ask whether grade inflation exists, but whether it is a real problem... to which some may say that the answer may differ based on one's viewpoint. For example:
- If one expected grades to sort/rate/rank a group of individuals by relative degree of knowledge in a topic, then grade inflation (if it occurred) would be a problem.
- If one expected grades to create a record of "equal outcomes" among a group of individuals, then grade inflation may be seen as a welcome solution to a problem.

The author's premise: Grade inflation does not exist; what we see is growth; today's students are smarter than students of 30 years ago.

The article contains many external links. It may be worthwhile to isolate and focus on the cluster of thoughts expressed in relation to each external link? Addressing the article in bite-size pieces may facilitate creating a series of brief, individual posts exploring the ideas imparted.

1) wikipedia - Grade Inflation

2) wikipedia - Tragedy of Commons

3) wikipedia - Flynn Effect

4) College Simply - Harvard acceptance rates

5) Quora - Harvard acceptance rates 30 years ago

6) CNBC - Harvard's incoming class is 1/3 legacy

7) ERIC digest - Grade Inflation in Higher Education

8) SAGEpub - Grade Inflation and the Signaling Power of Grades

9) Taylor&Francis Online - Grade inflation in UK higher education

10) Wiley Online Library - University Competition, Grading Standards, and Grade Inflation

11) wikipedia - availability heuristic

12) US Census - population clock

13) BLS/OOH - Post-Secondary Teachers

14) Slate - Small number of elite universities produce most of America’s professors (redirect)

15) wikipedia - Curse of Knowledge
Posted by: mckinley

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 07:14 AM

Originally Posted By: indigo
to which some may say that the answer may differ based on one's viewpoint. For example:
- If one expected grades to sort/rate/rank a group of individuals by relative degree of knowledge in a topic, then grade inflation (if it occurred) would be a problem.
- If one expected grades to create a record of "equal outcomes" among a group of individuals, then grade inflation may be seen as a welcome solution to a problem.


I think this is the real heart of the discussion. You have formulated two viewpoints here. One seems, based on your other posts, to be what you view as the position antagonistic to yours i.e. "equal outcomes." So I'm going to infer that the first viewpoint is how you see grades and why you think grade inflation is a problem.

I take a third viewpoint that denies both of those.

The purpose of grades is not to rank a group or track aggregate outcomes. The purpose is to assess the degree to which an individual student met the requirements of an individual assignment. A side effect is that sorting and ranking can take place. Grade inflation may be a phenomena, but it isn't a problem because the goal of the people giving the grade is not to give out the highest grades or equal grades, but to communicate their assessment of the student's learning to the student. Even my worst professors were trying to pass on the same knowledge to all of the students (a goal of "equal outcomes") They were not concerned with ranking students.

Because that's how I view grades, I look at grade inflation and aside from shrugging, I think maybe it's possible people are actually learning how to do instruction better over time. If instruction methods improve, if study methods improve, and if people assign more importance to doing well in college, it doesn't seem unreasonable to maybe see an upward trend in grades over time.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 08:48 AM

When discussing grade inflation, it may be helpful to have some good working definitions.

Grade inflation is NOT an upward trend in grades, reflective of learning more.

Grade inflation IS:
"An increase in student grades (and by extension, their grade point average) without corresponding evidence of any increase in achievement." (Potter, Nyman & Klump, 2001)
(Eaton, Sarah & Penaluna, Ann. (2019). Grading with integrity: Opening the uncomfortable conversation around grade inflation.)
Posted by: ElizabethN

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 10:49 AM

Originally Posted By: mckinley
The purpose of grades is not to rank a group or track aggregate outcomes. The purpose is to assess the degree to which an individual student met the requirements of an individual assignment. A side effect is that sorting and ranking can take place. Grade inflation may be a phenomena, but it isn't a problem because the goal of the people giving the grade is not to give out the highest grades or equal grades, but to communicate their assessment of the student's learning to the student. Even my worst professors were trying to pass on the same knowledge to all of the students (a goal of "equal outcomes") They were not concerned with ranking students.

Originally Posted By: indigo
Grade inflation is NOT an upward trend in grades, reflective of learning more.

Grade inflation IS:
"An increase in student grades (and by extension, their grade point average) without corresponding evidence of any increase in achievement." (Potter, Nyman & Klump, 2001) (Eaton, Sarah & Penaluna, Ann. (2019). Grading with integrity: Opening the uncomfortable conversation around grade inflation.)

I do not think that that is necessarily the definition that everyone (or even most people) are using for "grade inflation." When I have seen the term used, it seems to most often be in the context of "in my day, you had to get a 90% to get an A, and nowadays you can get an A with a 85%!" Where I went to college, the exams were hard enough that you might get an A with a 50%, so I find the fixation on achievement in terms of percentage correct to be particularly pointless.

I agree that we can't really have a meaningful discussion of grade inflation without some kind of agreement about what it is. But even if we agree to the quoted definition, that doesn't mean that any other publication that it discussing it is going to use the same standard. That makes it hard to cite evidence to support that it even is going on, let alone that it is a problem that needs to be solved.
Posted by: mckinley

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 12:01 PM

I was kind of shocked by that PowerPoint. Is an A+ in the UK really 75%? Over here in flyover country A- is 90-92% and there is no such grade as A+.

It seems to be (Baker 2018) one of the concerns is that student evaluations influence teacher grading. My experience in 2008-2012 was that my school set things up to avoid causing an unintended effect. Evaluations were done before final grades were entered. The teacher could not be in the room during the evaluation. The responses are all anonymous and the written answers were retyped by staff. The evaluations aren't even opened until long after the final grades are entered. Obviously that's just my experience. I'm always a bit of an outlier, but my concern with faculty was not good grades but more availability.

People in the education field would want to focus on this as an ethical issue, in the same way medical professionals focus on topics like over-prescribing antibiotics. However, my GPA and the level of honors on my degree hasn't had any positive impact on my ability to get jobs. Therefore worrying that someone else's inflated GPA or honors will give them an unfair advantage doesn't concern me.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 12:10 PM

Originally Posted By: ElizabethN
"in my day, you had to get a 90% to get an A, and nowadays you can get an A with a 85%!"
This is commonly called a grading scale, one aspect of an institution's grading system?

Originally Posted By: ElizabethN
Where I went to college, the exams were hard enough that you might get an A with a 50%
Was this grading on a curve?

Originally Posted By: ElizabethN
... I find the fixation on achievement in terms of percentage correct to be particularly pointless.
I agree, and I do not find reference to percentage-correct in the definition which I posted or elsewhere in my post.

Originally Posted By: ElizabethN
I agree that we can't really have a meaningful discussion of grade inflation without some kind of agreement about what it is.
Please feel free to share other definitions of Grade Inflation. Citations sourced from publications from the industry might be preferable, as they might tend to be somewhat more broadly utilized and/or accepted.

Originally Posted By: ElizabethN
But even if we agree to the quoted definition, that doesn't mean that any other publication that it discussing it is going to use the same standard.
No need to agree to that particular definition. For example, dictionaries (including online dictionaries) often have multiple definitions for words, and these definitions may overlap to a degree and also may stretch the range of meaning in various directions. Having definition facilitates "translation" between word usage in various contexts.

Originally Posted By: ElizabethN
That makes it hard to cite evidence to support that it even is going on, let alone that it is a problem that needs to be solved.
For purposes of these discussions it would seem that anecdotal evidence and empirical evidence may both be valuable in lending insight to what is occurring? The grading trends, practices, systems, scales, and inflation/deflation* may not be a monolith, and various individuals and groups may experience them differently.

*Grade deflation mentioned in article which mckinley introduced and sought feedback on: article by Patrick Julius (March 2018).
Posted by: aeh

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 12:15 PM

I had the same sense of shock when we started using a Singapore secondary math curriculum, and discovered that they used a grading scale similar to that of the UK. I did find it quite beneficial to shaping the perspective of my kiddo with perfectionist tendencies, though.
Posted by: ElizabethN

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 12:20 PM

Originally Posted By: indigo
Originally Posted By: ElizabethN
Where I went to college, the exams were hard enough that you might get an A with a 50%
Was this grading on a curve?

Grading systems were not really fully disclosed to undergraduates, but I think that most classes used a curved system. Sometimes there were benchmarks that you had to achieve to be able to get a higher grade in addition or instead. When I was a teaching assistant in graduate school, the department was mandating a limit on the number of A's and B's assigned. The professor and I worked together to figure out how to allocate grades to individuals. I think that limit was fairly recent at the time that I was a TA, and I don't know what they do now.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 12:28 PM

Here is another definition of Grade Inflation. This is from one of the external links in the article by Patrick Julius (March 2018):
"...when a grade is viewed as being less rigorous than it ought to be" (Mullen, 1995, p29).
I vacillated about posting this definition because it may be sufficiently nebulous as to be meaningless. Although it may have been meaningful to its intended audience, at that point in time (prior to Common Core).
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 12:50 PM

Originally Posted By: mckinley
The purpose of grades is not to rank a group or track aggregate outcomes.
This may have been true in the past, however mandated data collection tracks aggregate outcomes and ranks teachers and schools by the grades assigned to their pupils.

Originally Posted By: mckinley
The purpose is to assess the degree to which an individual student met the requirements of an individual assignment. A side effect is that sorting and ranking can take place.
Agreed...
Originally Posted By: indigo
If one expected grades to sort/rate/rank a group of individuals by relative degree of knowledge in a topic, then grade inflation (if it occurred) would be a problem.


mckinley, in your post upthread, you assigned to me a fabricated viewpoint and then argued against it... strawman.
This post serves to take the high road in addressing that, so the conversation about the article you sought input on may move forward.
Posted by: mckinley

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 01:13 PM

You switched premises there from ranking students (knowledge of a subject) to ranking teachers (job performance).

Other than collecting data, how would you suggest schools determine which reforms are successful and which aren't? Yes, if that data is part of performance evaluations of individuals, then it could be gamed. That seems to assume that the majority of educators are unethical, and that there aren't people employed to identify and minimize those risks.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/15/19 01:48 PM

Originally Posted By: mckinley
You switched premises there from ranking students (knowledge of a subject) to ranking teachers (job performance).
Au contraire. You responded to a phrase, taken out of context of the full sentence:
Originally Posted By: indigo
Originally Posted By: mckinley
The purpose of grades is not to rank a group or track aggregate outcomes.
This may have been true in the past, however mandated data collection tracks aggregate outcomes and ranks teachers and schools by the grades assigned to their pupils.

Originally Posted By: mckinley
which reforms are successful and which aren't
In the context of your post, what do you mean by successful? Equal outcomes?

Originally Posted By: mckinley
assess the degree to which an individual student met the requirements of an individual assignment
...
data...could be gamed
Yes, the assignment of grades can be gamed by various grading practices intended to report equal outcomes, including differentiated task demands. (Consider the impact of "differentiated task demands" on a teacher's ability to "assess the degree to which an individual student met the requirements of an individual assignment.")

Originally Posted By: mckinley
people employed to identify and minimize those risks
What title/role might fulfill this function of assuring there is no gaming of the grading system?
Posted by: philly103

Re: College grade inflation - 03/17/19 10:13 AM

Originally Posted By: mckinley
You switched premises there from ranking students (knowledge of a subject) to ranking teachers (job performance).

Other than collecting data, how would you suggest schools determine which reforms are successful and which aren't? Yes, if that data is part of performance evaluations of individuals, then it could be gamed. That seems to assume that the majority of educators are unethical, and that there aren't people employed to identify and minimize those risks.


I thought the article you linked raised solid points. In assessing the question of grade inflation, it is important to assess if the courses being taught are harder, if the kids are more capable, better prepared, etc.

I think the obsession with "equal outcomes" is misplaced as applied to the classroom. For the most part, teachers should be striving towards equal outcomes. In that they want all of their students to equally master the class curriculum.

The point of school, at the lowest levels, is not to weed out the weak from the strong but to educate the group. To decry "equal outcomes" in an individual classroom would be akin to arguing that we should be striving to fail kids simply so that we can say "See, not all kids are equally strong in this". The difference in ability should present itself in parallel assessing tools - state exams, standardized tests, etc. The classroom's goal should be equal outcomes.

Of course, it can be taken too far - which is where legitimate concerns about grade inflation come from. Are more kids getting As because the teaching has improved or because the course covers less rigorous material than before. But again, that's where larger assessment tools figure in and the question of the course goal.

In high school algebra, the teacher wants everyone to get an A. However, in Intro to Criminal Procedure, the law professor is going to make sure that only a set number of students do. I think people sometimes forget that school is for education and not a competition.

And, yes, I realize that the thread is titled college grade inflation but I think the misplaced concerns go beyond the college classroom.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/17/19 12:02 PM

Originally Posted By: philly103
For the most part, teachers should be striving towards equal outcomes. In that they want all of their students to equally master the class curriculum.
Because your post specified educational levels other than college, I will share the following -
Originally Posted By: Accelerate Illinois
... recent research from Johns Hopkins University... The study’s authors estimate that 20 to 40 percent of elementary and middle school students perform at least one grade level above their current grade in reading and 11 to 30 percent score at least one grade level above in math.
For the 11 to 40 percent of students who have already mastered the class material and are performing at least one grade level above their current grade...
a goal of "equal outcomes" translates to no growth for these pupils, while the remainder of grade level cohort catches up.
In this age of "equal outcomes" many gifted pupils experience their growth being capped.

To the degree that teachers/schools/programs may be rated/ranked based on generating grades which report "equal outcomes" some pupils in a class may experience stagnant growth while other pupils in the same class may experience grade inflation.

This may occur at college/university levels where inbound, formative, and summative (outbound) assessments may be conducted.

Originally Posted By: philly103
To decry "equal outcomes" in an individual classroom would be akin to arguing that we should be striving to fail kids...
Seeing the goal of grades which report "equal outcomes" as being flawed is NOT the same as striving to fail kids. Some may say that an appropriate goal for grades is to provide honest and meaningful feedback on a student's grasp of the material.

Originally Posted By: philly103
The classroom's goal should be equal outcomes.
Some may say the classroom's goal should be one term's growth for each pupil and/or an honest measurement of growth for that pupil throughout the term.
Posted by: philly103

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 05:02 AM

Originally Posted By: indigo
Originally Posted By: philly103
For the most part, teachers should be striving towards equal outcomes. In that they want all of their students to equally master the class curriculum.
Because your post specified educational levels other than college, I will share the following -
Originally Posted By: Accelerate Illinois
... recent research from Johns Hopkins University... The study’s authors estimate that 20 to 40 percent of elementary and middle school students perform at least one grade level above their current grade in reading and 11 to 30 percent score at least one grade level above in math.
For the 11 to 40 percent of students who have already mastered the class material and are performing at least one grade level above their current grade...
a goal of "equal outcomes" translates to no growth for these pupils, while the remainder of grade level cohort catches up.
In this age of "equal outcomes" many gifted pupils experience their growth being capped.


I'm not talking solely about advanced kids. I talking about education in general. Also, it's irrelevant that 20-40% of kids are performing above grade level (which is still a minority of the class). That doesn't change the goal of the teachers regarding educating their students.

That information is relevant to creating a broader range of classes for students to reflect the broad range of abilities or to the importance of acceleration but not to point I was making.

A school should have better class groupings so that advanced kids can take classes with similar level peers. Not that schools should raise the rigor of regular classes at the expense of the other students.

Originally Posted By: indigo
To the degree that teachers/schools/programs may be rated/ranked based on generating grades which report "equal outcomes" some pupils in a class may experience stagnant growth while other pupils in the same class may experience grade inflation.

This may occur at college/university levels where inbound, formative, and summative (outbound) assessments may be conducted.


That might true but it's not relevant to my point about the goal of the classroom

The problem is not "equal outcomes" but insufficient range of choices for different skill level students. It's stupid to expect a 5th grade math class to teach 7th grade math just because a minority percentage of the students can handle it. Those students should be allowed to attend the 7th grade math class instead of forcing the the kids who can only manage 5th grade math to struggle with concepts beyond them.

Originally Posted By: indigo
Seeing the goal of grades which report "equal outcomes" as being flawed is NOT the same as striving to fail kids. Some may say that an appropriate goal for grades is to provide honest and meaningful feedback on a student's grasp of the material.

Sure, the goal of grades is to provide meaningful feedback on a student's grasp of the material, i.e. the curriculum. And the teachers' goal is to ensure that all students fully grasp the material, i.e. the curriculum. Teachers want "equal outcomes" because it means that all of the students have learned the material.

Your concern about equal outcomes seems predicated on the idea that teachers should not want all of their 5th graders to grasp the 5th grade curriculum solely because there are some kids who are capable of grasping more.

The students capable of more should move on to classrooms delivering more instead of assigning a negative framework to teachers doing what teachers are supposed to do - helping all students master the curriculum for that class.

Originally Posted By: indigo
Some may say the classroom's goal should be one term's growth for each pupil and/or an honest measurement of growth for that pupil throughout the term.


Most would say that the classroom's goal is to impart the curriculum to the class. When the student has mastered the curriculum the student should move to a different classroom.

It seems more like a sense of misunderstanding between a class curriculum and private instruction. A classroom should have a curriculum, students should learn the curriculum. Teachers should make sure that all students learn the same curriculum - your "equal outcomes". When the student has finished the curriculum, the student should change to a new curriculum. The teacher should not stop focusing on teaching the curriculum to the other students who still need to finish it.

We all have gifted kids, I assume. I don't expect the school to stop teaching the other kids basic math just because my kid is beyond the material. Nor do I expect the classroom to roll at my kid's level because then no one else would learn anything. I expect the school to find a way to accommodate my kid without sacrificing its responsibility to the other students - which is to make sure that all of the kids equally master the core curriculum, the necessary "equal outcome".

But that's my take. I think the education of all the kids is equally important and you don't denigrate teaching the masses just because of the existence of outliers. You find a way to accommodate the outlier.

You are, of course, entitled to view it differently.
Posted by: mecreature

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 07:01 AM

Nicely worded philly! Thanks for taking the time to put this down.
I have struggled explaining this like you have here. A lot of gifted parents feel this way too.

I am going to steal/share some of your thoughts.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 07:15 AM

Originally Posted By: philly103
I'm not talking solely about advanced kids. I talking about education in general.
Absolutely. When considering education in general, 11-40% of pupils know the material before the class begins.

Originally Posted By: philly103
That doesn't change the goal of the teachers regarding educating their students.
The goal of generating grades which signal "equal outcomes"?
-VS-
The goal of achieving one term's growth for each student and/or grades which honestly reflect the growth (or lack of growth) for each pupil throughout the term?

Originally Posted By: philly103
Teachers should make sure that all students learn the same curriculum - your "equal outcomes".
I believe you are describing "grade level proficiency."
Grade level proficiency is NOT the same as assigning grades which indicate "equal outcomes."

Regarding achieving grade level proficiency, some may say that a teacher's role is to provide ample opportunity for all students to learn the prescribed grade-level curriculum. Teachers cannot ensure student learning. Learning is the student's role.

Originally Posted By: philly103
A school should have...
In a perfect world, yes. I believe you used the word "should" 11 times in your post. I do agree that these are useful policies/practices to advocate for.

Meanwhile, the thread has been discussing what IS, not what "should be." Various parties have been attempting to share their observations on trends in grade inflation/deflation, over time. I personally believe that BOTH grade inflation and grade deflation are occurring, and I believe both are occurring due to incentivization for teachers/schools/institutions/programs to assign grades which indicate "equal outcomes."

Originally Posted By: philly103
It's stupid to expect a 5th grade math class to teach 7th grade math just because a minority percentage of the students can handle it.
I do not believe that has been suggested. If you believe otherwise, would you please kindly show me where this has been suggested?

To use your form of expression, what's stupid is to assign grades to your exemplar 5th grade math class which indicate "equal outcomes" among all pupils when some of the children in your exemplar class are at the 7th grade math level.

This, I believe is the essential topic of the thread: how much can we trust grades (and college degrees conferred) to be indicative of what the pupil knows,
- when grades may be inflated (exaggerating student demonstrated performance)
- when grades may be deflated (under-reporting student demonstrated performance)
- when teachers/institutions/programs are incentivized to report grades which indicate "equal outcomes"

Originally Posted By: philly103
Teachers want "equal outcomes" because it means that all of the students have learned the material.
Assigning grades which indicate "equal outcomes" signals that all pupils have learned the material equally. That each is performing at a level which is indistinguishable from one another.

Originally Posted By: philly103
Your concern about equal outcomes seems predicated on the idea that teachers should not want all of their 5th graders to grasp the 5th grade curriculum solely because there are some kids who are capable of grasping more.
This false. Concerns about teachers being incentivized to assign grades which indicate "equal outcomes" include:
- grades not providing pupils with honest and meaningful feedback on growth throughout the term
- falsifying records to signal that all pupils are performing at the same skill level
- some students may receive inflated grades (exaggerating demonstrated knowledge)
- some students may receive deflated grades (downplaying demonstrated knowledge)
- there is a ceiling beyond which growth is not measured
- growth beyond the ceiling is capped, thwarted, discouraged
- there are a growing number of grading practices in use to ensure the reporting of "equal outcomes"
- truth, honesty, integrity fall by the wayside when essentially measuring with a rubber ruler to report "equal outcomes"
- questionable value of college degrees conferred
Posted by: Kai

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 07:31 AM

Originally Posted By: indigo
Originally Posted By: philly103
I'm not talking solely about advanced kids. I talking about education in general.
Absolutely. When considering education in general, 11-40% of pupils know the material before the class begins.


This statistic is misleading. It means that 11-40% of students scored as an average student in the next grade up would score on the same test. This does not mean that they have mastered the material typically taught in their own grade or the next grade up.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 07:39 AM

Originally Posted By: Kai
Originally Posted By: indigo
When considering education in general, 11-40% of pupils know the material before the class begins.


This statistic is misleading. It means that 11-40% of students scored as an average student in the next grade up would score on the same test. This does not mean that they have mastered the material typically taught in their own grade or the next grade up.
That may be. Do you have a source for that information? Thanks, Kai.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 07:45 AM

Originally Posted By: indigo
Originally Posted By: Kai
Originally Posted By: indigo
When considering education in general, 11-40% of pupils know the material before the class begins.


This statistic is misleading. It means that 11-40% of students scored as an average student in the next grade up would score on the same test. This does not mean that they have mastered the material typically taught in their own grade or the next grade up.
That may be. Do you have a source for that information? Thanks, Kai.


The quoted source in this post, Accelerate Illinois, provides this citation: 4. Matthew C. Makel, Michael S.Matthews, Scott J. Peters, Karen Rambo-Hernandez, and Jonathan A. Plucker, “How Can So Many Students Be Invisible? Large Percentages of American Students Perform Above Grade Level”, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, 2016.

I looked for a link, this is what I found:
1) http://edpolicy.education.jhu.edu/how-ca...ve-grade-level/
2) http://edpolicy.education.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/StudentsinvisiblemastheadFINAL.pdf

Reading linked research report...
1- "performing above grade level"
2- "one in every five students has surpassed that criterion before the school year even starts"
3- not germane to this side conversation... but worth considering regarding grade inflation in general:
"textbook and curriculum analyses suggest that intellectual rigor declined significantly over the last hundred years;8"

4- "teachers, using pre-testing strategies, could eliminate 40-50% of the existing curriculum for advanced elementary school students without causing achievement declines on out-of-level standardized tests.9 The authors noted, “Targeted students had mastered some material in all content areas prior to instruction; at a minimum, they demonstrated mastery of one-fourth of the curriculum for the year before it was taught” (p. 81). A few students in the same study had mastered three-quarters of the upcoming year’s curriculum."
5- "cut scores on ELA and mathematics at four levels: below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced... proficient to indicate performance that was on grade level"
6- "students in a given grade level who scored at or above the proficiency threshold established for one year above their current grade in English Language Arts (ELA) or mathematics. Stated another way, all three tables present the percentage of students who are one or more years advanced in each content area."
7- "estimate how many students were at least one year above grade level, by determining how many students at the beginning of Grade 5 were already achieving at end-of-year Grade 5 proficiency levels on MAP reading. We were also able to determine how many of these above-grade-level students achieved MAP test scores equivalent to year-end scores for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders."
8- "At the beginning of their Grade 5 year, approximately 35% of students had scores commensurate with end-of-year Grade 5 proficiency reading levels... Further, approximately 10% of all Grade 5 students in our data demonstrated Grade 8 level end-of-year proficiency. These students were four school years ahead of grade level in reading..."
9- "Nearly 14% of all Grade 5 students at the beginning of the school year were already earning MAP scores consistent with end-of-Grade-5 proficiency... About 2.4% of all Grade 5 students were achieving at levels equal to, or above, the end-of-Grade-8 (or high school level, four school years ahead of grade level) in mathematics."
10- "... a MAP test score equivalent to ninth-grade performance is in fact based on ninth-grade content knowledge and skills."
numbers added to count excerpts


Although I was recalling information from 2+ years ago, and could've done so inaccurately, I believe the excerpts above indicate that "11-40% of pupils know the material before the class begins" represents the findings fairly well.

While various assessments were utilized in this research, the methods described include early administration of the grade-level end-of-year tests and therefore do not appear to be accurately summarized by the statement: "It means that 11-40% of students scored as an average student in the next grade up would score on the same test. This does not mean that they have mastered the material typically taught in their own grade or the next grade up."

Some students have significant inbound knowledge, however, with teachers/institutions incentivized to provide grades indicating "equal outcomes" these students may tend to receive grades indicating the same demonstrated knowledge as classmates. A variety of known grading techniques are in play, to deflate the reported grades of these students, and also inflate the reported grades of other students. This can occur at every educational level, including college.
Posted by: Kai

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 09:02 AM

Originally Posted By: indigo
Originally Posted By: indigo
Originally Posted By: Kai
Originally Posted By: indigo
When considering education in general, 11-40% of pupils know the material before the class begins.


This statistic is misleading. It means that 11-40% of students scored as an average student in the next grade up would score on the same test. This does not mean that they have mastered the material typically taught in their own grade or the next grade up.
That may be. Do you have a source for that information? Thanks, Kai.


The quoted source in this post, Accelerate Illinois, provides this citation: 4. Matthew C. Makel, Michael S.Matthews, Scott J. Peters, Karen Rambo-Hernandez, and Jonathan A. Plucker, “How Can So Many Students Be Invisible? Large Percentages of American Students Perform Above Grade Level”, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, 2016.


I looked at this article, and I stand by my statement. They are comparing student proficiency and *not* mastery of grade level content.

Unfortunately, I don't have time to go into it further right now, but I will try to remember to revisit this thread when I do (which should be in the next few days).
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 09:16 AM

Originally Posted By: mecreature
Nicely worded philly! Thanks for taking the time to put this down.
I have struggled explaining this like you have here. A lot of gifted parents feel this way too.

I am going to steal/share some of your thoughts.
I hope these are the ideas from philly103's post that you wish to further disseminate, mecreature:
Originally Posted By: philly103
1) creating a broader range of classes for students to reflect the broad range of abilities
2) the importance of acceleration
3) A school should have better class groupings so that advanced kids can take classes with similar level peers.
4) The problem is... insufficient range of choices for different skill level students.
5) 5th grade... Those students should be allowed to attend the 7th grade math
6) The students capable of more should move on to classrooms delivering more
7) When the student has mastered the curriculum the student should move to a different classroom.
8) When the student has finished the curriculum, the student should change to a new curriculum.
9) I expect the school to find a way to accommodate my kid... You find a way to accommodate the outlier.
numbers added, to count the excerpts

Unfortunately, despite years of successful advocacy, some strong supporters of "equal outcomes" continue to object to acceleration and student grouping by ability, readiness, achievement... or any means of providing continued growth for pupils at the top, until pupils at the bottom catch up and attain grades reflective of having achieved "equal outcomes." Note: "equal outcomes" is NOT synonymous with "grade level proficiency."

That said, much of the post was far outside the topic of college grade inflation, or even the broader topic of grading practices. I'll tie this back to the thread by saying that grades recorded for earlier educational levels do impact college readiness, college grades, college grade inflation/deflation, and the value of degrees conferred.
Posted by: ElizabethN

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 10:45 AM

Originally Posted By: indigo
I hope these are the ideas from philly103's post that you wish to further disseminate, mecreature:
Originally Posted By: philly103
1) creating a broader range of classes for students to reflect the broad range of abilities
2) the importance of acceleration
3) A school should have better class groupings so that advanced kids can take classes with similar level peers.
4) The problem is... insufficient range of choices for different skill level students.
5) 5th grade... Those students should be allowed to attend the 7th grade math
6) The students capable of more should move on to classrooms delivering more
7) When the student has mastered the curriculum the student should move to a different classroom.
8) When the student has finished the curriculum, the student should change to a new curriculum.
9) I expect the school to find a way to accommodate my kid... You find a way to accommodate the outlier.
numbers added, to count the excerpts

While I found your list of extracts to be interesting, especially in how it illustrates how different people can read the same post and take different things from it, I would also encourage people watching this thread to read and reflect on philly103's whole insightful post, rather than to rely on a "Cliffs Notes" version. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us, philly103, without worrying about whether it precisely fit within the bounds of the thread title.
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 11:12 AM

Originally Posted By: Kai
They are comparing student proficiency and *not* mastery of grade level content.

Unfortunately, I don't have time to go into it further right now, but I will try to remember to revisit this thread when I do (which should be in the next few days).
I look forward to reading your thoughts and sources, whenever you may post them. In the meanwhile I believe we can both agree that the research indicates a percentage of American Students Perform Above Grade Level... thereby allowing the conversation of grade inflation/deflation to continue.

When some students perform above grade level, are "equal outcomes" possible?

What role does (or might) grade inflation/deflation play in recording grades which indicate "equal outcomes" among pupils with different performance levels... whether in earlier education experiences or at the college/university level?
Posted by: indigo

Re: College grade inflation - 03/18/19 12:00 PM

Originally Posted By: ElizabethN
read and reflect on philly103's whole insightful post, rather than to rely on a "Cliffs Notes" version.
LOL, this was not intended to be a "Cliffs Notes" version of philly103's post, but rather was clearly labeled as ideas which I hope mecreature had in mind when planning to share "some of" philly103's thoughts.

Originally Posted By: ElizabethN
Thank you for taking the time to share it with us, philly103, without worrying about whether it precisely fit within the bounds of the thread title.
Rather than not fitting precisely within the thread title, philly103's post veered off-topic, leaving behind college grade inflation or even the broader topic of grading practices. Much of the post content was far outside the topic including philly03 arguing against strawman statements, such as practices which had not been suggested ("It's stupid to expect a 5th grade math class to teach 7th grade math just because a minority percentage of the students can handle it.") and viewpoints mis-attributed ("Your concern about equal outcomes seems predicated on the idea that teachers should not want all of their 5th graders to grasp the 5th grade curriculum solely because there are some kids who are capable of grasping more.")

Thank you for allowing me to clarify. smile

To the degree that others continue philly103's side conversation without tying their posts back to the thread... the thread has been hijacked. Possibly a new thread could be created for that side conversation... ?

Meanwhile, I'll tie this post back to the thread by saying that grading practices and grades recorded for earlier educational levels do impact college readiness, college grade inflation/deflation*, and ultimately even the value of degrees conferred.

*Grade deflation mentioned in article which mckinley introduced and sought feedback on: article by Patrick Julius (March 2018).