Grade Inflation

Invalid Comparisons

There are three logical comparisons that could be made to determine whether there is grade inflation: comparisons over time; comparisons between faculties at the same institution; comparisons between same faculties at different institutions. But as we examine each of these, it quickly becomes apparent that we are comparing apples and oranges, and that no valid conclusions can be drawn.

Grading systems have changed over time, making comparisons over time inappropriate. For example, at the University of Lethbridge, we used to have a five point scale: A,B,C,D,F. In 1988 this was changed to a 13 point system: New system A+ A A-, B+ B B-, C+ C C-, D+ D D-, F; it was recently changed again to drop the grade of D-. Consequently, higher grades (inflation) may not indicate changes in the actual distribution of grades.

Even if I could generate definitive statistics that we were now giving out higher grades, may not mean anything except that the labels have changed. Just as with monetary inflation, change in labels is not significant as long as everyone understands new equivalencies. My brother started teaching in the 1950s at $3,500 year I started teaching in the late 1970s at $35,000. I was not really making ten times more than my brother -- because everybody's salaries in all jobs went up, along with all prices everywhere. Simply saying we need to go back to handing out more 'C's misses the point that that would disadvantage our students in competition for scholarships and graduate studies and jobs because NOBODY is handing out 'C'

Indeed, since students require a 2.5 GPA to remain in the Education Faculty, then there clearly is no point pretending that "C" is an 'average' grade in the Faculty of Education, because a student a 'C' student is out of the program!

© Robert Runté 2005. This site last updated: May 3, 2005