by Christopher Matgouranis
Recently CCAP has begun to address the issue of grade inflation in American higher education, specifically examining its prevalence in Colleges/Departments of Education. We are currently working on a more expansive study. Combing through aggregate grade data on the website Campusbuddy.com, CCAP (specifically Chris Denhart and Michael Malesick) has been examining grade inflation across four separate disciplines as well as university-wide data. Continuing with past research, the field of education is a main focus and is examined along with economics, English, and physics. To date, data from more than 60 schools has been gathered. These schools are located across the country, ranging from nationally ranked state flagship universities (ex. University of Michigan) to regional state schools (ex. Central Michigan University).
Two separate indicators of grade inflation were analyzed. We looked for the average departmental/college grade point average, as well as the percent of “A” grades given in each field. The first chart depicts the average GPA, while the second shows “A” grade distributions.
Our findings are quite close to our initial estimates. Fields such as physics and economics are far behind the university averages in our sample, while English roughly keeps pace with the university, both in average GPA and “A” grade distribution. We are not making any claims that grade inflation does not exist in these disciplines—in fact, historical data show otherwise. Simply, these departments may be roughly keeping within the limits of the historical trends.
Education programs’ rampant grade inflation is an entirely different animal. Average GPAs are well over a half point higher than the university average and they also give nearly twice as many 'A' grades. This difference would be even more striking if education statistics were not included in university-wide averages, as education programs often comprise a considerable portion of the entire university.
As previous posts indicate, grade inflation within education programs can, and is, leading to serious systemic educational problems. Marginal students receive outstanding grades, often learning little. It may also be that the good students are gaining little from these programs as well. Perhaps there may be a better path towards becoming a primary or secondary school teacher. Students could forgo majoring in education and instead major in a more rigorous program (physics, economics, etc.). In order to become a teacher, they would be required to earn a teaching certificate on top of their bachelor’s degree. This route will provide a more thoroughly educated teacher, unlike many of the supposed “A” education majors currently being sent out into our K-12 schools.
CCAP will continue to examine grade inflation throughout the university system as a whole. Stay tuned.