Skip to comments.The dangers of grade inflation for young America
Posted on 06/01/2012 8:10:58 PM PDT by chessplayer
Congratulations, young America, youve reached the threshold of academic perfection. Recent studies have shown that an A is now the MOST COMMON GRADE for college students in the United States. Its nice to know that my generation is so well educated. Or perhaps not. Based upon a mountain of contradictory evidence and the environment I see all around me as an American college student, I hesitate to declare victory too soon. When you dig deeper the facts show that grade inflation is what really fuels our college students higher GPAs, and A today might be equivalent to a C forty years ago.
Despite the outward appearances of academic perfection, todays students are not on an upward trajectory toward academic success. Last year, a USA Today report showed that college students make little academic progress in their first two years of college. In fact, 45 percent of students showed no significant gains, a figure which contradicts academias goal of educating students. College Students are more likely to focus on their social lives rather than their academic record. Professors caught up with their own research are less likely to pay attention to such habits. Additionally, students spend 50 percent less time studying now than they have in past decades.
You can’t charge 40K in tuition and give little Timmy a ‘C’. The parents will bitch. People are buying their kids a diploma.
One of my favorite movies is “The Paper Chase”. I loved the part where they holed up in the hotel room so they could write their paper without being bothered. That movie is about 40 years old.
Read that the first two college years are mostly remedial studies,,,teaching them what they should have learned in high school. The real college work doesn’t begin until their junior year.
I teach a lot of industrial technical classes. I can tell you that A may be the most common grade but the abilities I see don’t merit such.
1. I had an entire table of 6 engineers who could not even plug numbers into a formula and get the right answers. They didn’t know how to work within the parentheses first then add or do the other operations. WTF?
2. When the get the wrong answer their immediate conclusion is that I got the wrong answer. Never mind that I’ve taught this stuff and done this stuff for more decades than they have been alive.
3. Teaching test has left them vacant of reasoning ability. They want to know the answer to pass the test. Give them a problem and they melt.
I’m not encouraged for the future in more ways than one.
In my engineering classes, the professor included in his course syllibus the equations he used to normalize grades to a Bell curve. The average grade in that class was a “C”, mathematically derived from the scores of every test, quiz and homework assignment.
There were equal numbers of “D” grades as “B” grades, and the number of “F” grades equaled the number of “A” grades.
We had to bust our butts to get a “C”.
Over the years I have hired a few Timmy's ... I just gave them lower level jobs with much lower pay than they would have received had they increased their "gray matter" while in college. And generlly they advance through their career much more slowly as well. Over their lifetimes the cost to them must be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It reminds me of that movie that was made about the life of Bruce Lee when the lady who owned the restaurant told him, just before he went to college, that he could always drop out and and return to his job as a dish washer.
Some study showed that 80% of people think they are above average. It didn’t matter what was being measured. 80% of people think they are smarter than average, 80% of people think they are taller than average, 80% of people thing they are better looking than average, etc.
I teach a lot of industrial technical classes. I can tell you that A may be the most common grade but the abilities I see dont merit such.
Used to be a student could feel a real sense of accomplishment if they got an A. Now with almost everyone getting an A, it’s like “so what?”
First day of Introduction to Management, York College of Pennsylvania, 1978:
Prof: Would you agree that the grade of “C” means average?
Prof: Would you agree that most of you are average?
Prof: Therefore, most of you will receive “C” ‘s.
This is true in most colleges, and has even reached the top schools like UW Madison and UC Berkeley.
I have heard of courses where the professor “Skewed to the Left”- This is where more students failed than got A’s, and more D’s than B’s.
Oh, and if the A students didn’t get over 60% on the test, they got dropped to a “B” anyway (”C” for below 50%). Hardly anyone got an A in that course (Once in a 2 year occurrence). BTW, the average score was a 27%.
Without going into details, I work for a military base supporting the USAF. About 6 years ago, the base hired a bunch of "Engineering Technology" folks to do low level engineering work. These "Engineers" demonstrated the gifts you describe, and after "a bunch" of money was wasted, the base brought in some "Electrical Engineers" - who were able to solve the myrad of relatively simple problems within a year.
The 2-Star who ran this base, and several other bases in neighboring states isssued a directive - "Absolutely no hiring of Engineering Technology degreed personnel, regardless of experience level without his direct involvement".
This small group of incompetent "engineers" have ruined the chances of hundreds or thousands of other "Engineering Technology" degreed professionals from pursing a degree with the USAF.
Twenty years ago, I got an “A” in a course. That translates to a 4.0 getting averaged into the rest of my grades. That’s the highest grade you could get. I had gotten a 98% in the course, so I figured I should have gotten an “A++” and told the professor so. He had my grade changed to an “A++” in my transcript. It still only counted as a 4.0 though. I think he gave B+ to anyone who showed up.
“Some study showed that 80% of people think they are above average.”
Not me. I always called myself Medium Mears.
All those “mediums” have served me well over the years.
Dr. Myron at SDSU? He was my advisor - he took pride in washing engineers out.
Teachers like that are worse than useless. The tests were so convoluted and difficult that no one really had a chance of answering any single problem. You "shot-gunned" the 4 question test and hoped your partial credit would pass you.
All you would up doing was vomiting up formulae and derivations in the hope of guessing you were on the right path. Meanwhile, a student who happened to bypass this teacher actually LEARNED the topic of the course, passed the test and understood the what/why and when's of the various principles.
Is the Bell Curve at play ?
When I went to Ohio State for electrical engineering, they told us in orientation to look to your left and your right, and that only one of you three would make it through the program. They weren’t kidding. Talked to a recent gard - it’s still that way (although they do allow a bit more remdial math up front that does NOT count toward your major).
Old joke there: lim EE (GPA ->0) = business
Except now the business school rocks.
So there are still some REAL colleges...
I worked part-time as a math tutor while in college. It was ridiculous the number of people going for math-heavy majors who I had to teach junior-high-level math to.
One guy even seemed proud of the fact that he’d never learned to multiply or divide. He even tried to trick me into taking one of his tests for him!!!
That's because you've used them in an above-average way, by understanding them in an excellent way, in order to follow brilliant ideas without being sabotaged by below-average people.
I’d have to agree. I teach Core Humanities at the local community college. Mostly Sophomores who cannot write to save their lives. My courses are history intensive and writing intensive. I tell the students on Day 1 that while an “A” might be the most common grade on college campuses, unfortunately for them, they are in Professor Crapgame’s class and an “A” is the LEAST common grade I give out. I usually have at least as many if not more “F”s...
I’ve read enough of your posts to know that you have WAY anove average common sense, which is far from common. Or average.
Geez, I still have my slide-rule from the 60’s.
How cruel! What chance for success will these poor kids have if you don’t give them good grades? /s
“I have heard of courses where the professor Skewed to the Left- This is where more students failed than got As, and more Ds than Bs.”
I was in one of those. To add insult to injury, the professor could not speak English, had illegible writing, and did not use a textbook.
“Discrete Mathematical Structures”. They used it to weed out first year graduate students. We called the professor “Hitler”, though he was Taiwanese. He clicked his heals and saluted at each QED.
You’d think it would be simpler to give a test to the candidates, so obvious louses would get filtered out (and the rest would know that their competency was being honored). I cannot grok a graduate not being able to use BOOK FORMULAS, and as for not being able to follow the evaluation logic of nested parentheses — even with calculators which can reproduce this with open and close paren keys — good grief.
As for remedials — when I entered engineering school I had the opposite situation. I was able to test out of English rhetoric altogether. I had mastered that in high school. And I did just fine in college papers. They did have me go through calculus again, no test-out being possible, but that was pretty much an easy coast as, once more, I had mastered a year’s worth of it in high school.
The policy for grading was pretty much bell curve, though the policy often was that if there were one or two stellar students well above the grouping they would not be counted in the curve, but just awarded the A. I was often one of those stellar students. It did ease relations with my classmates who didn’t feel so antagonistic towards the “curve raiser.” I didn’t really care a lot about there being no A+, the normal A being enough to open just about any door during that era.
I am a teacher. We are ranked on a 1-5 scale. So, 50 percent of my eval was 2.76, 35 percent was 2.0, and 15 percent was 4.0.While my response may have been perhaps a bit over the top, I call 'em like I see 'em:
So what is my rank on 1-5 scale? Help! Very stumped!
You're a teacher and you can't do a simple weighted average??? I certainly hope that you're not a math teacher.And people wonder why the kids aren't learning much?
Multiply each score times its weight and sum them:
(0.5 * 2.76) + (0.35 * 2.0) + (0.15 * 4.0) = 1.38 + 0.7 + 0.6 = 2.68
And, yes, that question was for real:
Someone was pulling your leg!
It makes a difference whether you always force a bell curve that way, or whether you have a fixed set of standards in which any student, in principle, could excel without hurting the others.
For real, my pulled leg. Look at the data; doesn’t that appear rather artificial and contrived?
Not sure that there is a test you could give to “filter” those out - because a degree in Engineering is to a great extent a demonstration that “I have learned to learn”.
For example, my High School was exceptionally poor at most technical classes. Our “Math” teachers were hired based upon their ability to coach sports. Often, the students would have to teach the teacher in subjects like Algebra - forget Calculus. Our bone-headed high school teachers couldn’t master basic Algebra, Geometry or Trig.
Naturally, I paid dearly for their incompetence; but they apparently were really good at coaching basketball - you know, the important stuff.
Me, I’m happy to learn - and I’m a quick study. Being able to grasp complex subjects quickly and move on has served me well. I do wish I understood the higher level maths better - but I put my head down, passed the course and haven’t used the course material in my 25 yrs as an engineer.
What matters is the aptitude, the attitude and the ability to break a complex problem down into a hierarchy of simple challenges. Everything else can be learned, as needed.
There are engineering certification tests (for example Professional Engineer) and so it’s not impossible; and anyhow being unable to use book formulas properly should be a sure disqualifier. It won’t eliminate all the dunces but at least the duller ones will not be able to ruin it for the rest.
I believe you, without reservation or condition.
I’m dumbfounded at what many “Educators” consider to be “competency”. I would fully expect an Art, English or Spanish teacher to have mastered this level of math, but I’m often accused of under-estimating High School level “Educators”.
Frankly, I have very little respect for them as a profession. And every bit of disdain has been earned.
I went back to school for some courses in a new area, and half the students were, er, “entitled”. They clearly were in way over their heads, but it was a city subsidized university. They had to be there, and they had to pass. I asked the professor how he handled the grading curve. He said that with a curve this bimodal, he simply separated the to ‘bells’, and super-imposed them. The grade for the average from the top bell was a B-, and the grade for the average from the low bell curve was a B-. He said that the, er, “entitled” students always dropped out anyway, so inflating their grades did no harm. And this way he didn’t get a knife in his ribs in the parking lot.
I lived that also--except for my engineering school, only one in four made it to graduation.
I made it, and then I found that my real education occurred after college.
I’m aware of the EIT, I took it and passed it the first time through without having to study. I worked full time while going to college (boy, that sucked more than I care to think about). My grades were “average”, I’m sure that they would have been much, much higher if I was afforded the time to study and do my homework. But, alas I’m just a poor farm boy from the middle of no-where.
We were required to take the EIT prior to graduation, so I grabbed my CRC book, and went in prepared to bomb it. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I passed it with an overall score of 84%. I think my Professors were more shocked than I was.
I thought you were referring to a battery of tests for the Freshman/Sophmore years of engineering; to assertain competency.
That's certainly possible - I misread the name as being one that someone claiming to be a teacher has been posting under for several months. This was done by a 'drive-by' poster with a similar name.
“Not me. I always called myself Medium Mears.”
If you were “medium” at judging yourself, you wouldn’t judge yourself “medium”. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Wonder if it was truly ethical to hocus them that way (and anyhow, that could have been three champs abreast). There’s the old saw about the bumblebee that never knew it shouldn’t fly, and so it did.
Isn't that the truth!! I was scared wit-less at my first job, just waiting for someone to present me with an engineering problem, and have them realize I hadn't a clue as how to design anything. I could do matrix math, permutations, differential calculations, relativistic physics, express Reynolds Equations, and roughly explain Special Relativity.
But, connect a J-K Flip-Flop into a timing circuit?
However, to my school's credit; the assortment of tools and concepts I had learned really helped me absorb new material quickly, easily and orderly.
I’m speaking in the context of the horror story of the USAF engineering tech hires who proved so spectacularly incompetent, so the entire category of candidates had the kibosh put on them. The prospective hires should have to take a test to show such things as being able to follow book formulas. So anyone who “graduated” because, say, some dean owed some generous alumnus a favor wouldn’t be able to spoil it for the rest.
We both know that there is an EIT Certification put forth by the various states for Mechanical and Electrical engineers.
I’m not aware of there is a similar “Engineer-In-Training” Certificate for Engineering Technology graduates. If so, I agree that this would be a good “Gating Function” in the hiring process.
My degree was in Civil Engineering, but I could absolutely relate to what you are saying.
In my first job, I stayed late reading blueprints to understand the buildings I was working on.In school, we had never gone through an entire set of building blueprints. There was so much in the real world that wasn;t covered.
I asked a lot of questions and didn’t act like I knew it all—because I sure didn’t.
I listened and learned and grew, step by step.
But like you, I had a toolbox of methods and discipline that I could apply to acquire the information I needed and to use it correctly.
Even now, I laugh at that time period and what an eye-opener it was. Kept me humble, that’s for sure.
And 36 years later, I’m still learning.
I have fixed standards and they are laid out in each course syllabus. Of course most students can’t be bothered to read the syllabus. I did love the Journalism major last semester that complained to me about the rough grading of her grammar. She told me that she is a journalism major/writer and no professor had ever taken points away from her for her grammar. I referred her to the College Writing Center.
That just ain't right.
There seems to be some huge overall spike that coincides with the official end to the Vietnam War (end of U.S. military involvement, that is), Watergate, and the election of Jimmy Carter.
That is horrible. To graduate unequipped to perform in your career is downright dangerous and explains a lot of the problems we are having.
I’m very careful in hiring. I have people write me a quick essay.
My husband worked in a place where he inherited a division with workers who had reading comprehension issues and could not write. He had to carefuly check everything until he could revamp that division staff. They would give him ebonics stuff to sign his name to! They had college degrees.