The 2019 report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAPE), the “nation’s report card,” confirmed what many suspected: grade inflation is a reality. Compared to 2009 statistics, student transcripts reflect an increase in the number of course credits, and the “overall grade point average rose from 3.0 to 3.11.”  The ACT reports even higher GPA scores occurred over the last three years, from 3.17-3.36.  However, student transcripts may not be an accurate assessment of skill level. Teacher-awarded grades are subjective.Teachers may consider a variety of factors aside from objective tests when assigning grades: homework, group projects, class participation, and behavior. 

A recent press release from ACT regarding their study of grading practices over the last ten years indicates that  grade inflation poses a problem with evaluating a student’s college readiness: “The study shows that grade inflation is a persistent, systemic problem, common across classrooms, districts, and states.” Admittedly, the testing companies (ACT and SAT) have a vested interest in promoting the advantages of objective testing. A statement by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) supports the elimination of mandatory testing “for both practical but also ethical reasons.”  However, previously, the association listed admission test scores in the top three factors for college admissions. 

However, the research does pose an interesting question: What criteria are admissions officials (especially those in selective universities) using  to evaluate a student’s ability not only to enroll, but also to succeed in their institution? As stated in a previous blog, more than 1000 colleges are now test optional, resulting in a dramatic increase in their number of applications. The change in policy resulted in a decline in acceptance and selectivity ratings of top-ranked universities.  “Many colleges also require an application fee prior to submission. Prices vary but range up to $100.” Do these fees contribute to the overall revenue of the colleges? A somewhat obscure college admissions process has become even less transparent.

Laura Maniglia