Harvard Is Completely Ordinary When It Comes to Grade Inflation

Join the club. “A” is the most common grade across the country.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
See more stories about...
Brian Resnick
Dec. 4, 2013, 9:35 a.m.

Sorry, Har­vard, the news you dumped today isn’t all that spe­cial. The most com­mon grade awar­ded at your school is “A”. So what? Wel­come to the club of Amer­ic­an aca­demia. Grades have been on the rise na­tion­ally for dec­ades. And “A” is the most com­mon grade across the coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to the work of Stu­art Rojstaczer, a former Duke Geo­phys­ics pro­fess­or who is prob­ably the most quoted source on this is­sue, the av­er­age GPA in Amer­ic­an col­leges rose from 2.52 in 1960 to 3.11 in 2006. That’s nearly a whole let­ter grade high­er.

The Uni­versity of Delaware, which I at­ten­ded, gave out a grade of A or A- 40 per­cent of the time in 2009. And that was just the av­er­age across all the col­leges and de­part­ments. Sev­enty per­cent of those tak­ing classes in the Col­lege of Edu­ca­tion re­ceived A’s.

Brown Uni­versity made sim­il­ar news in 2008 when it was re­vealed that more than 50 per­cent of all grades dis­trib­uted were A’s. Yale gives out A’s 62 per­cent of the time. It would be much weirder if Har­vard trended in the oth­er dir­ec­tion.

Keep in mind there’s a huge gulf in the grades of quant­it­at­ive sub­jects like sci­ence and math and more qual­it­at­ive sub­jects like Eng­lish and his­tory. At Delaware, for in­stance, the bio­logy de­part­ment only awar­ded A’s 20 per­cent of the time.

Grade in­fla­tion is only a prob­lem if you think GPAs are im­port­ant. The more you com­pact all grades in­to the high 3.5-4.0 range, the less abil­ity they have to il­lus­trate mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ences between stu­dents.

That’s a good thing for Har­vard stu­dents, as grade in­fla­tion works in their fa­vor, and it’s bad news for every­one else. A study pub­lished in Ju­ly found that, in an ex­per­i­ment, hy­po­thet­ic­al stu­dents from a strict-grad­ing school were ad­mit­ted to MBA pro­grams just 11 per­cent of the time while those from a grade-in­flated school were ad­mit­ted 72 per­cent of the time. That was true even though ad­mis­sions of­ficers were giv­en the in­di­vidu­al grades with the ad­ded con­text of how oth­er stu­dents at that school per­formed.

“People rely heav­ily on nom­in­al per­form­ance (such as GPA) as an in­dic­at­or of suc­cess while fail­ing to suf­fi­ciently take in­to ac­count in­form­a­tion about the dis­tri­bu­tions of per­form­ances from which it came,” the au­thors con­cluded.

So good work, Har­vard! Fi­nally, your stu­dents will be no­ticed.

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
3 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×