Grade Inflation, Revisited (properly, this time)

Earlier, I posted two items on grades at Witt. One dealt with how hard (at a point in time) particular departments grade compared to each other. Another dealt with how grades at Witt compare to grades at other schools, also at a point in time. It included the phrase “grade inflation” in the title, a really bad mistake for an economist! Why? Inflation deals with change over time.

Doug Andrews posted a comment with a question about grade inflation. He provided the pre 2000 data he had gathered in his capacity as a Phi Beta Kappa adviser. It represents cumulative mean GPA for grads at the point of graduation. I have assembled data for the post 2002 mean cumulative GPA for grads.

Click on this image for a visual.


It seems clear to me that grades have crept up over time.

3 Responses to “Grade Inflation, Revisited (properly, this time)”

  1. Don Reed says:

    A cross-sectional design is appropriate if the question is whether grades at Witt are high relative to grades at sister institutions (with comparable students and teaching) — which is one proper concern about grade inflation.

    A longitudinal design is appropriate if we can assume no real changes in student abilities or efforts, or faculty teaching quality, over the years (maybe grades have been going higher because students and/or faculty are doing better).

    One important question is whether students are better or worse prepared at graduation, whatever their grades — prepared to think on their feet, prepared to write proposals and evaluations and reports, prepared to make complex judgments based on incomplete information, etc. If only we could measure this and then compare grades over time.

    Grade inflation is a problem if grades are going up but student performance on assessments is not improving at a commensurate rate. Until we measure entrance and exit performances, we won’t know.

  2. Tim Bennett says:

    This report on college grades is interesting. The authors find that 43% of grades awarded at colleges and universities are “As”.

    That provides an interesting context, I think.

  3. Ray Dudek says:

    An article that looks at grade inflation on a national level can be found here:

    The authors look compare private and public schools, and also compare the grade inflation between humanities, social science, natural science, and engineering.

    It seems that grade inflation is definitely real, though identifying the cause is much more difficult.

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