Rating inflation is real

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Ask anyone, but especially those who work in education, about grade inflation and you will likely get solid answers. The idea that good grades are more common than before because teachers are more forgiving, more passive in their expectations will lead to a certain passion.

This is also a topic that has been difficult to assess objectively as it feels like it could be a generational trap – an issue in which the elders just think things were more difficult when they got them. made. And no one wants to hear that, especially young people.

That’s not to say that grade inflation – better grades for the same or even less rigorous work – isn’t a reality, that it doesn’t happen.

In fact, a working paper released last April by researchers at BYU, Purdue, Stanford, and the United States Military Academy at West Point, indicates that grade inflation isn’t just real, it’s contributing – perhaps even to distort – the rates of university competition.

If that’s true, the implications go far beyond settling a generational feud. While it is easier to get high marks than before, and this is what determines graduation, the degrees awarded today are worth less – they reflect diluted accomplishment – than before.

This could indeed be very important for how we think about completing college and getting a degree, as well as how we think about the underlying value agreement to go. , to finish university.

But first step first. In their paper, the researchers say that the increase in college graduation rates since the 1990s can be explained in large part by grade inflation. They say that between 1990 and 2010, graduation rates increased in all types of schools except for-profit schools where they arguably worsened. When you remove these for-profit organizations, college graduation rates have jumped from 52% to 59.7% over those two decades.

The report’s authors note that most of the things that would otherwise influence graduation rates are negative. The net cost, state support, stagnant academic preparation, increasing enrollment, students spending less time studying and more time working should all reduce competition rates – yet they have increase.

The researchers also write that looking at student-level data from nine major public universities, liberal arts colleges, and other data sets, surrogacy has also increased over the same period – rather steadily over the years. 1990. If the two are closely related – that higher grades have boosted retention and college completion since the 1990s – it means that over the past 20+ years, a significant number of university graduates have not ‘would not have graduated if grades had remained stable in the 1970s and 80s standards.

Significantly, the report makes this connection, saying, “The increase in grades explains, from a statistical perspective, the majority of the changes in graduation rates in our decomposition exercise.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the authors of the article stated that “increases in college grade averages cannot be explained by student demographics, readiness, and academic factors.” They also add that their data “presents evidence that the increase in ratings is consistent with inflation in ratings.” Adding elsewhere in the report, “We find evidence that the increase in marks is due to inflation in marks” and “These facts combined with trends in study time and student employment suggest that standards of Graduation rates have changed due to grade inflation. ”

As with all of this research, replication and verification will be important – this is still a working document. Even so, it’s hard to look away from a data and evidence report that says degree standards have changed – that is, worsened – due to grade inflation.

The report does not explain in depth why rating inflation can occur, although they go beyond a few factors that prompt it. These include the reality that teachers who give better or more permissive grades get better reviews. And reviews are important, especially if you’re an assistant or contract instructor whose contract needs to be reviewed regularly. Likewise, courses and departments that are considered easy – easy ones like – see their enrollment and income increase.

In the higher education arena, this ratio is unlikely to make much of a difference, as the factors that are likely to drive grade inflation and inflated downstream completion rates only increase. Schools must increase their income, ie enrollment. And they sure have a credible number of those enrolled graduates. This puts pressure on costly intervention and support programs. But it also puts pressure on the notes – and not in a good way.

Outside of higher education, this report can win you a bet or help you win an argument. Some pretty credible people, armed with pretty credible evidence, say that grade inflation – getting better grades for the same job or less – is real.

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