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The Impact of Grade Inflation on the Incidence of Academic Deficiencies Session H2 Ronald F. Urban PACRAO Conference Cal PowerPoint Presentation
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The Impact of Grade Inflation on the Incidence of Academic Deficiencies Session H2 Ronald F. Urban PACRAO Conference Calgary, Alberta November 9, 2010. Grade Inflation: Complexity and Confusion. Articles in Chronicle of Higher Education and in the lay press decrying grade inflation.

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The Impact of Grade Inflation on the Incidence of Academic Deficiencies

Session H2

Ronald F. Urban

PACRAO Conference

Calgary, Alberta

November 9, 2010

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 academic 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)

fig 1 long term national grading trends avg gpa various sources including rojstaczer 2009
Fig. 1 Long-term National Grading Trends: Avg. GPA(Various Sources including Rojstaczer, 2009)

GPA

possible explanations
Possible Explanations:
  • Harvey Mansfield: Emphasis on student self-esteem, multiculturalism, and affirmative action 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
  • Large numbers of new, young professors identifying with students during Vietnam war, the draft, women’s issues, and racial discrimination. Calls for “relevance”.
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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

hunches into hypotheses
Hunches into 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: 52-53

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

Neal Christopherson, Office of Institutional Research, June, 2009

`

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. 6 Whitman Cumulative GPA, New Student High School GPA and Combined SAT Scores: Fall 1998 – Fall 2008

HS GPA

Combined SAT

Cum GPA

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

Cum GPA

Selectivity

summary
Summary
  • “Higher grading” has occurred at Whitman College, but it appears to be accompanied by more qualified students
  • The incidence of Latin Honors and the Academic Deficiency Rate both appear to be directly impacted by increasing grades (respectively: r= .85, -.77)
  • Increasingly high grades (cumulative GPA) appears to be highly correlated with Selectivity (r= .89) (Semester-level data)
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Latin Honors

Selectivity

HigherGrades

Deficiencies

why should registrar be concerned
WhyShouldRegistrarBeConcerned?
  • Increase in Latin Honors means additional administrative details, from verifying students’ qualifications during degree audit to diploma proofing .
  • Inflated Latin Honors produces greater costs associated with appropriate academic regalia ($2,500 in more stoles at Whitman)
  • Loss of GPA as a differentiator leads to other forms of status seeking: more double majors, minors, academic exceptions petitions, major honors, demand for specialized certificates, exotic study abroad (transcripts), and applications for prestigious post BA fellowships
  • Reduction in no. of deficient students means less time and fewer resources allocated towards imposing and enforcing academic standards activities.
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.

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. 2009 “Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities,” http://gradeinflation.com/. Accessed 9/22/10.