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The Impact of Grade Inflation on the Incidence of Academic Deficiencies Session A5 Ronald F. Urban Annual PACRAO Confere PowerPoint Presentation
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The Impact of Grade Inflation on the Incidence of Academic Deficiencies Session A5 Ronald F. Urban Annual PACRAO Conference Newport Beach, CA November 2, 2009. Grade Inflation: Complexity and Confusion.

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The Impact of Grade Inflation on the Incidence of Academic Deficiencies

Session A5

Ronald F. Urban

Annual PACRAO Conference

Newport Beach, CA

November 2, 2009

grade inflation complexity and confusion
Grade Inflation: Complexity and Confusion
  • Articles in Chronicle of Higher Education and in the lay press decrying grade inflation
  • Equally convincing scholarly articles arguing that grade inflation renders student evaluation meaningless
  • Dissent by respected researchers (e.g., Adelman) who argue that reliable and valid nationwide data fail to provide much evidence for grade inflation. “It’s a newspaper phenomenon!”
slide3
Definition of Grade Inflation

An increase in students’ grade point averages over time…

…without a corresponding increase in student achievement.” (in R. Kamber, 2008: 47)

previous studies
Previous Studies
  • Harvey Mansfield: Emphasis on student self-esteem and multiculturalism during the late 60s resulted in grade inflation
  • Richard J. Barndt (2001: 1): Fiscal and budgetary policies required stable or increasing student enrollments including enhanced retention strategies—along with elevated grading incentives
  • Some researchers point to differences between elite institutions vs. those less prominent (1998 mean gpa: 3.3 vs. 2.7), others… (Rojstaczer in Kamber, 2008: 60)
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Fig. 2 Public vs. Private Higher Education Cumulative GPA Comparisons: 1991-2007(Source: Stuart Rojstaczer, http://www.gradeinflation.com3/10/2009)

Private

Public

explanations hypotheses
Explanations(Hypotheses)
  • Students Better Prepared
  • Political and Ideological Issues*(Vietnam, “Relevance”, “Compensatory Exchange”)
  • Demographic and Market-Driven Factors*
  • Internal Policy Changes (P-D-F, CR/NC classes, Late W/D, Graded Activity Classes, Post-hoc Grade Changes, Teaching Evaluations)*

*Kamber, 2008: 53-53

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Whitman College

Walla Walla, WA

Highly Selective, 4-yr. liberal arts

~1,500 FTE and Headcount

39% WA, 15% CA, 14% OR

procedures methods
Procedures (Methods)
  • Data extracted for each registered student from fall 1998 through spring 2009 semesters. Non degree-seeking student data removed from files.
  • Merged appropriate deficiency report data with semester-based data, above; deficiency rates calculated. Semesters serve as unit of analysis.
  • All analyses performed via Excel
slide10

Fig. 3 Whitman College Spring Semester Grade Distributions: 1990-2009

Neal Christopherson, Office of Institutional Research, June, 2009

`

latin honors qualifications
Latin Honors Qualifications

Standard grade point criterion-based:

3.900 Summa cum laude

3.800 Magna cum laude

3.650 Cum laude

Not Percentage Based.

fig 4 annual cumulative gpa and percent latin honors 1998 99 through 2008 09
Fig. 4. Annual Cumulative GPA and PercentLatin Honors: 1998-99 through 2008-09

Cum GPA

Latin Honors

academic deficiency status
Academic Deficiency Status
  • Progress Warning (credits, major gpa)
  • Academic Probation ( <1.7semester, <2.0 cumulative gpa)
  • Suspension (Academic Registration Hold)
  • Dismissal (Separation from College)
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Fig. 6a Whitman Cumulative GPA, New Student High School GPA and Combined SAT Scores: Fall 1998 – Fall 2008

HS GPA

Comb SAT

Cum GPA

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Fig. 6b Whitman Cumulative GPA, New Student High School GPA and Combined SAT (Standardized Scores): Fall 1998 – Fall 2008

Comb SAT

HS GPA

Cum GPA

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Fig. 7 Whitman Cumulative GPA, and New Student Selectivity: Fall 1998 – Fall 2008

Cum GPA

Selectivity

summary
Summary
  • Grade Inflation has occurred at Whitman College, but it appears to have stabilized since 2004.
  • Based on semester-level data the Academic Deficiency Rate appears to be directly impacted by increasing cumulative GPA (r = -.77) and Selectivity (r = -.66)
  • Both cumulative GPA (r = .89) and percent Honors (r = .88) are highly correlated with Selectivity (Rejection Rate) (Semester-level data)
  • Results may not apply to all colleges and universities
references
References

Adelman, Clifford. 2008 “Undergraduate Grades: A More Complex Story Than “Inflation,”” in Grade Inflation: Academic Standards in Higher Education, ed. L. Hunt, 13-44. Albany, NY: State University of New York.

Biggs, Mary. 2008 “Fissures in the Foundation: Why Grade Conflation Could Happen,” in Grade Inflation: Academic Standards in Higher Education, ed. L. Hunt, 121-152. Albany, NY: State University of New York.

Barndt, Richard J. 2001 “Fiscal Policy Effects on Grade Inflation,” http://www.newfoundations.com/Policy/Barndt.html

Kamber, Richard. 2008 “Understanding Grade Inflation,” in Grade Inflation: Academic Standards in Higher Education, ed. L. Hunt, 45-71. Albany, NY: State University of New York.

references1
References

Mansfield, Harvey C. 2001 “Grade Inflation: It’s Time to Face the Facts,” http://chronicle.com/article/Grade-Inflation-It-s-Time-to/9332. Accessed 9/22/09.

Rojstaczer, Stuart. 2001 “Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities,” http://gradeinflation.com/. Accessed 9/22/09.