Here, anyone can read, write, and share science.

Try it for free. No registration required.

A is for Average


For many years, and continuing today, the average grade is a C; a grade of B is considered above average, and a B+ was considered outstanding. However, as prices have inflated, so too have grades. A highly respected 81 in a high school chemistry class in 1960 is now considered the bottom of the barrel. In my high school, the average weighted GPA was around a 3.8, an average of an A-! A 4.0 weighted GPA is not mind-blowing anymore, and now, people view straight A report cards as typical rather than outstanding. According to an article published by US News and Reports, the average GPA of a high school student is now 3.1, a B average. This is nearly 0.4 points higher than the average high school GPA in 1990. Some argue that the result of this increase in grades is because students are actually becoming smarter and the quality of the education system is improving. However, this is not  the case–standardized test scores are actually lower today than they were 20 years ago. This shows that the educational system has fooled itself, lowering standards rather than improving the quality of instruction.

Grade inflation is tantamount to the “everybody gets a trophy” trend that is afflicting many youth. Ironically, this trend might be a byproduct of our own educational competitiveness. The prestige of high schools and colleges has become more quantified in recent years. Factors that affect prestige may include the percentage of kids who attend college, retention rate, average GPA, and student performance. All these factors are impacted by grades, so there is an incentive for teachers to give out higher marks for the same work because it will likely have a positive image on the school or institution. In addition, as grades become more important, both students and teachers want to drive grades up.

Today, it is incessantly programmed into the minds of many pupils that college is not only important, but also necessary for a financially stable career. The vision where a teen can find a job at a factory out of high school and move up the social ladder is dead. Jobs that once required a high school education now either require or favor those with bachelors degrees. Pay for minimum wage workers has increased at a slower rate than pay in professional sectors. This focus on college and the good grades necessary for admission are partially fueling this grade inflation, as teachers want students to succeed. In addition, parents of students who receive low marks now primarily blame the teacher rather than considering their child’s ability. The fear of receiving complaints is another possible motivation for teachers to grade students with more leniency.

In colleges, grade inflation is worse. The average grade at Harvard and many other universities is either an A or A-. There are numerous explanations for this. One is that with the Internet, professors are being commercialized through websites like Rate My Teachers or Koofers. For example, if I see that the average grade of a student in Professor A’s class was a 75, a perfectly average grade, but the average grade in Professor B’s class was a 93, then I would definitely choose professor B. Likewise professors are afraid that student’s will write poor evaluations if a student doesn’t receive a desired grade, which, for adjunct professors with semester contracts, can jeopardize their careers.

This grade inflation is an alarming phenomena and should be stopped before it is too late.

Edited by: Karen Yung and Arselyne C.