Staff Editorial    March 27, 1998

Combating grade inflation

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Context Grades


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Recently, all students received an updated semester grade report for the fall semester, revised to include the new "grade context information." While many students might be confused by this new format, it represents a strong move by the administration to combat the effects of grade inflation.

Grade inflation has plagued IU, just as it has plagued most other educational institutions for decades. Most often, it manifests itself by way of a heavily skewed average grade point average. While official transcripts state a grade of C is average, the average GPA at Indiana tends to be closer to a B, a tendency caused by teachers who do not use the entire grading spectrum, A through F. It is nearly impossible to distinguish between good students and those who are truly outstanding. The ultimate victims of grade inflation are graduate schools and employers who cannot adequately evaluate the abilities of a student relative to his or her peers. This hurts all students, regardless where they might be relative to the mathematical average.

The true effect of grade inflation is not new to the Bloomington campus, or to the Bloomington Faculty Council -- in particular, one College of Arts and Sciences professor emeritus has been campaigning for indexed grades since the early 1970s. The BFC fin ally adopted indexed grading in 1994 and has now made it available to all students.

In addition to a student's grade, the new context grading system provides the average grade given in the section of the class in which the student was enrolled, as well as a breakdown of all grades awarded in the section. With this information, every graduate school will be able to know just what every instructor's grades are worth and just how well the student performed relative to his or her peers -- to the extent teachers make their grades meaningful by making their As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs mean what they were intended to mean. Every other university will know IU's grades carry real meaning and will have to adopt a similar system in self-defense. In this way, IU will make history.

No longer will inflated grades fool anyone -- teacher, student or graduate school -- in respect to the quality of an individual student's work. The impetus is now on all of Indiana's instructors to use the entire grading spectrum, not just As and Bs. Inflated grades will no longer make students look good; rather, they will only make instructors and departments look bad.

©1998 Indiana Daily Student