Posted on 16 March 2015.
BY EMMA GOETZINGER
Carolene Kurien, a junior at the Bay, is a student who has spoken out against the topic of grade inflation.
“The problem of grade inflation at Cypress has definitely gotten way out of hand. If something isn’t done soon to control it, I think it’s going to start having an even more negative effect on the fairness of the learning environment,” Kurien said.
Grade inflation is the tendency to award or receive higher grades for academic work that would’ve normally deserved a lower grade. It exists in many forms, ranging from taking extra classes to have more weight factored into a person’s GPA to simply asking a teacher to bump up a grade.
Professor Diane R. Deane of Illinois State University and co-author of “Generation on a Tightrope: A Portrait of Today’s College Student” said that grade inflation exists. Administrators are also aware that they’re doing little to stop it. In fact, until recently, it was believed that nothing needed to be done to stop it, said Ms. Deane in an email interview with The Circuit.
“For many years, although the situation seemed outrageous, it was not regarded as something that was important,” Ms. Deane said. “Grade inflation was something everyone knew about, but nothing that anyone wanted to do anything about.”
Ms. Deane said despite the awareness of this subject, some of the country’s universities have chosen to ignore it, but since grade inflation is becoming more apparent, disregarding it is something that can’t necessarily be done. Ms. Deane said that even at Illinois State University, the school where she is employed, hasn’t done as much as it could to stop this problem from escalating.
“Schools and employers have always been well aware of what was going on behind the scenes, but now, grade inflation has become a serious problem for current undergraduates,” Ms. Deane said. “For example, even though I’m well aware that grade inflation exists, as well as my colleagues, no serious efforts have been made to reverse this trend. I have talked to friends who work out numerous other schools, and it’s obvious the grade inflation is starting to become a very common trend.”
Allen Groves, dean of students from the University of Virginia, said current undergraduates are significantly more sheltered and spoiled than previous students. He attributes this directly to the amount of grade inflation that occurs within the school system.
“This is a generation that has never been allowed to fall on their knees. They’ve grown up with an inflated and skewed sense of accomplishment, which tends to grow very strong during high school, and they carry it with them all throughout college,” Dr. Groves said in an email interview.
What parents, students and even teachers who have experienced and seen the effects of grade inflation find concerning is that it starts at young ages like 5, but then bursts at the high school level, often during junior year. Eric Adzima, a social studies teacher at the Bay, is very familiar with the grade inflation.
“I have a 5 year old daughter, and I’ve already seen the behavior that leads students to feel entitled to higher grades,” Mr. Adzima said. “Children are always awarded trophies for every game, whether they win or lose. My older students’ parents are always there to fix any issue that they may have, and students of all ages are always told good job. This is the root of the problem.”
Grade inflation and the manipulation of GPAs make it harder for students to compete with their peers who use grade inflation to their advantage.
“When people think of grade inflation, many just picture a student going into a teacher’s classroom and arguing for a higher grade,” Kurien said. “Grade inflation doesn’t have to be that direct. I think that the amount of BC [Broward College] classes that students take is probably the most uncontrolled form of grade inflation here.”
Kurien is not only concerned about the fact that students have the ability to take classes outside of school, which can inflate their GPA, but she also questions why there are no limits as to just how many classes students are able to take.
“There are absolutely no regulations placed on the amount of extra classes students can take,” Kurien said. “It makes all the classes that I’m taking at school feel a lot less valid, and it skews my ranking just because I’ve been taking all my classes at school.”
Junior Cecilia Padron has also seen the effects of grade inflation. Not only are students allowed to take extra classes, which can inflate their grades and GPAs, but they are also able to take extra online classes in order to finish more credits to take more challenging classes that weren’t intended for their grade levels.
“As a student who hasn’t taken a BC or online class, I see a huge problem with doing so,” Padron said. “No matter how hard I work taking my difficult classes at school like students are intended to do, it’s really hard for me to compete with some students who are taking extra classes just to factor them into their regular GPAs.”
Students who do it may believe that this inflation is beneficial, but in the long run, it may not be. BC classes can tend to be less rigorous than those offered at the Bay.
“Students come into rigorous classes [at Cypress Bay] automatically expecting to get A’s by taking the easy way out…They often think they can just ask teachers to bump up their grades, sometimes by quite a bit,” Mr. Adzima said. “I know many of my students take extra BC classes, and it definitely affects their attitudes and performance in class. I’ve also heard that they’re much easier, and if that’s actually the case, then it definitely makes matters unfair.”
Parents are just as concerned as students when it comes to the topic of grade inflation. Elizabeth Kurien, mother of Carolene, doesn’t want students entering college or the workplace with the false feeling that they will be able to face challenges with more ease than others just because of elevated grades on their report cards.
“Anyone can take and succeed at any easy extra class and boost their GPA, and people who may not be as bright or try as hard as those taking rigorous classes at school can end up having higher GPAs, providing them with a false sense of accomplishment,” Mrs. Kurien said. “Although I do believe this is the case, I can also understand why students do take extra classes to inflate their GPAs. But I still don’t agree with it.”
Some still stand behind their decision to take extra classes and believe that they’re more than just means by which to inflate their GPAs.
“I think it’s a misconception that people only take extra classes to inflate their GPAs. Although this is what some students do, I know from my own experience that this isn’t always the case,” sophomore Aaron Carrio said. “Some students take extra classes for help with what they’re doing at school, or if a class is not offered at Cypress, BC is the second best option. I think it’s wrong that people automatically assume that BC classes, or any extra classes, are just for the purpose of grade inflation.”
More recently, ways have been discovered for parents, students, and teachers within the high school system to detect grade inflation. Alfie Koh, a sociologist and author, has written 14 books, including “No Contest: The Case Against Competition” breaking down just what these ways are. He said with students who take AP classes, it is much easier to tell who has taken advantage of grade inflation in the past.
“Parents can compare the report card grade to the AP test score and understand that inflation has probably occurred if the grade is significantly higher than the test score,” Mr. Kohn said during a phone interview. “Numerous studies have been conducted that show that a 4 or a 5 on an AP exam is closely equivalent to a high school A, a score of 3 is similar to a B and a 2 is comparable to a C. Besides this, there still really isn’t a definitive way to detect grade inflation, and until students and teachers discover one, the issue of grade inflation will remain the same.”
Mr. Kohn said despite this method, it is still not possible to always know when grade inflation is present. He said thatthis would involve students confessing to what they’ve done and how they’re manipulating their GPAs, which isn’t always easy to get students to do.
“Although this isn’t always the case and may not always be effective, this is one way that I’ve seen students and parents busting grade inflation because when asked, many people simply just don’t tell the truth about it,” Mr. Kohn said.
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