Grade inflation is very prevalent. Because grades provided by teachers are highly subjective, comparing grade point averages (GPA’s) whether from class to class or district to district is an unreliable method for assessing students’ performance. Standardized tests like the SSAT, SAT, ACT, and others, provide a more objective picture.
While some teachers believe that awarding an “easy A” benefits students’ self-esteem, evidence contradicts that assumption. “A Fordham analysis of grading standards set by Algebra I teachers shows high expectations have long-term impacts and benefit all types of students.” Teachers with rigorous standards who supported their students’ efforts, provided superior long term outcomes to those who had lower expectations and awarded the “easy A.” Perhaps performance standards have changed. Teachers with fewer years of experience tended to award more high grades, while veteran teachers had higher expectations with more rigorous standards. A North Carolina study that looked at long-term outcomes for in Algebra 1 found students gained more knowledge from teachers with rigorous grading standards than with those who had lower expectations. . . Tougher grading practices also translated into higher achievement in the subsequent Geometry and Algebra II courses. Rigorous standards benefitted learners regardless of race or types of schools they attended. The greatest impact of these high expectations and tougher grading occurred in middle schools and among high-poverty schools.
While those who provide higher grades may feel that they are boosting the students’ self-esteem, they are misguided. In fact, they are giving their students a false sense of their abilities. This emphasis on self-esteem has not resulted in better performance. American students fare poorly when compared to those in other developed countries. The release of the latest 2018 rankings by the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, showed that the U.S. ranks 36th out of the 79 countries and regions that participate in the test, below several Asian countries, Poland, and New Zealand.
Setting high standards and providing the appropriate level of support are the duties of educators. Parents and students shouldn’t settle for less!