GW trend may point to grade inflation

An increased number of high achievers at GW may lead to grade inflation, University officials said.

According to a study conducted by the University of California Los Angeles, college and high school students nationwide are earning more As than ever before.

GW officials said that higher caliber students coming to the University may place pressure on professors to give out higher grades, or that those same students are simply earning better grades.

The study reports that 34 percent of currently enrolled college freshmen reported getting an A average in high school, compared to 12.5 percent in 1969.

We’re right in the ballpark with (the) UCLA (study), said Cheryl Beil, vice president of GW Academic Planning and Assessment.

The number of GW students who reported As in high school has gone up compared to 10 years ago, according to GW APA statistics. Sixty-one percent of freshmen at GW said they received at least A-minus grade averages in high school, Beil said. That number is up 30 percent from 1990.

Lester Lefton, dean of the Colombian School of Arts of Sciences, said grade inflation is a trend across the country and possibly at GW as well. Lefton said students are partly to blame for grade inflation because they do not demand the same level of education as students have in the past.

It is a symptom of a changing economic landscape, Lefton said. Students want different things from a university education than they did 20 to 30 years ago. Students are more interested in credentials than in getting a first-rate education.

Lefton said some GW students demonstrate this increasingly popular view of university education.

Student attitudes toward university education may put pressure on teachers to give them higher grades they may not deserve, he said.

I’m sure that is the case for a certain segment of the faculty, he said.

Lefton said he does not think this behavior is endemic to GW.

Some faculty members said they are not concerned about the possibility of rising grades.

Barbara Miller, the associate dean of Curriculum and Student Affairs in the Elliott School, said she expects grades to go up as GW attracts a higher quality of students.

At GW, we believe that our students are getting better, Miller said. So our grades should go up. Even if grades go up, it wouldn’t necessarily be evidence of inflation.

A large source of grade inflation at other schools involves a lack of standards among faculty, but she does not see this trend at GW.

At the Elliott school, we talk to our faculty as to standards of grading, Miller said. We would be unhappy if we thought we were slipping to (grade inflation).

The Educational Policy sub-committee of the Faculty Senate will examine whether the increase of As at GW is a result of grade inflation.

It is something the committee started, said Paul Duff, chair of the committee. It’s on our plate. Hopefully, we’ll begin this semester.

But Duff said such an investigation can take up to two years, depending on the scope.

This is the kind of thing that can take years, Duff said.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.