Grade Inflation


Aura Carlson and Phoebe Stein

According to a study done by Michael Hurwitz of the College Board and Jason Lee of the Uni- versity of Georgia,“In 1998, 38.9 percent of kids in high school had an average grade of an A,” but by 2016, “the average number of students with A’s had increased to 47 percent.” Needless to say, there was not a 20 percent increase in merit during those 18 years.


According to PrepScholar writer Samantha Lindsays,“Grade in ation is when average grades are skewed arti cially high because class assessments are too easy and/or teachers are too lenient.”

One way to determine whether schools have grade inflation or not is to look at their average grade point averages. If a school has an average grade point average of 3.0 or higher, that school has a higher than average rate of grade inflation.

Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, authors of the paper “Grade Inflation Chroniclers Extraordinaire,” quoted a well-known professor from the University of Florida who said,“When grading time came, and we knew that giving a C meant that our student (who deserved a D) would go into the jungle, we did one better and gave him a B.” By giving this student an undeserved grade, professors were saving their students from being shipped off to theVietnam War. Although times have changed, there continue to be various reasons for grades being raised.


Looking deeper into the issue, Hurwitz and Lee found that grade inflation was more common in wealthier private schools which “had cases of grade inflation at three times the rate of public schools.” Based on input from students, faculty and parents, the main causes of grade inflation are school reputation, college admissions and student/parent stress.

Because of student and parent stress, teachers receive a lot of pressure from families to give good grades, especially at private schools where students’ college expectations are generally higher.

Students feel the need to have all A’s and even A+’s to look good for college admissions. Junior Andrew Tolles said he feels pressure to get good grades “for the college process,” saying,“I feel as though this is the next big step in my life and
can determine what my life will be in the future.”

Head of Laguna’s Challenge Success program Katharine Piller ” agrees that for students, “getting perfect grades to get into college is a big part of the stress.” Her biggest concern is that“it’s taking away kids’ love of learning.” amount of energy, and many teachers would rather spend their energy on creating lessons and/or working with students as opposed to battling over grades.


To students, grade in ation may seem like a good thing. However, grade in ation actually has unknown negative consequences: unpreparedness for college and struggle in the college admissions process.

Senior Jackson Hurley said,“30 years ago, you could get into the top colleges in the country based almost entirely on having straight A’s. Now, top students and it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves from many of their peers who receive identical perfect grades for average work. Good grades are now a

we are saying is that it is important we have some sort of standardized measure like the SAT … [because there is] enormous variation among high schools and [their] variation of grade infation.”

Not being graded for one’s true quality of work and effort can lead to difficulty in college.

Zaira Paredes ’17, now a freshman at the University of Southern California, said,“The major difference between high school and college grading would be that in college, you get exactly what you deserve.The amount of effort you put into a class will be re ected in your semester grade no matter what.” She said that college is harder because “you really do have to dedicate yourself in a way you really never have before.”


Chiment suggests,“It would be better for schools to publish college graduation rates from alums from four years earlier.This incentivizes schools to prepare students for success in college and re- moves the con ict of interest of mere college acceptance.”

French instructor Valerie
Yoshimura, who is also the
parent of a high school senior,
said that student grade obsession “has multiple sources — primarily, I daresay, parents and the pressure that they exert on their kids in this kind of equation that success equals [going to] a good school.” She admits to having “hound[ed]” her son to “do better” with his grades for years, but when helping him apply to college, she realized “the application provides a broad picture of a given candidate, and that grades truly are just one part.”

Commenting on why some schools
end up in ating grades, Math Department Chair Paul Chiment said,“Many schools advertise the speci c colleges to which their most recent graduates have been admitted.This creates a con ict of interest on the part of the school in that schools bene t from grade in ation. High grades mean more college admissions, making the school more marketable to prospective families and hopefully increasing tuition revenue.”

Chiment added,“Another factor is teacher fatigue. It is easier to give high grades than low ones.We all have a nite

The stress that students have over grades is only exacerbated by constant up-to-the-minute reporting of every score.

Chiment suggests that schools “stop posting grades online. Students should ask the teacher how they are doing and what they can improve upon.A student’s per- formance is more nuanced than a simple number, and it deserves a conversation. Unfortunately, colleges need a “grade” to summarize this performance, but during the quarter, students and teachers need to talk to each other.”

One teacher’s or one school’s valiant stand is likely to be counterproductive. Overall, this trend is unlikely to reverse unless our society values fairness over their own kid’s grade.

The American education system, as a whole, needs to come together to combat this problem. Parents should stop blaming teachers for their children’s grades, and students need to stop worrying so much about perfect grades.