The grade inflation sensation
by FRANNY FOSTER
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on April 25, 2014 | PRINT

It’s that time of year again — where students are frantically trying to survive these last two weeks with the best results possible. In reaction, I have been thinking a lot about the significance of Clemson’s current grade scale system. Along with the vast majority of American universities, Clemson uses a letter grade system, where our grades are calculated and summed up into a final grade point average (GPA). What does our GPA really mean? This daunting, yet powerful acronym has the power to change the course of your life. Let’s face it, as college students, our GPAs control us. From fraternities, club sports and even to graduation and a future career, our GPA has become the new standard of defining oneself.

In the United States, the parameters for grading are normally based off of letter grades, where an ‘A’ signifies exemplary work, and an ‘F’ represents utter failure. While the grading system usually varies between classes, with different assignments worth different percentages, your final GPA is what really matters presently. Classroom work has become less about learning and more about what it takes to make the best possible grade. Rather than taking the time to learn and understand what we’re being taught, we are more concerned about getting an assignment completed on time. I think striving for the best possible GPA has completely deterred students from gleaning real insight from courses and professors. Further, a trend has ensued, where students choose professors not based on merit, personality or intelligence, but whether or not the professor is an easy grader. As a result of these trends, grade inflation has occurred, or simply, the awarding of higher grades to a student than he or she deserves or should receive.

I hope for the day when students can fret less about the next grade received and more about the material they’re supposed to be learning. Narrative learning, as opposed to the current grade scale, is implemented at select colleges throughout the U.S., such as Brown University and New College of Florida. At the end of the semester, teachers provide written feedback to students as an alternative to grading, often providing ways in which students can improve for future terms. This system strives to cater more toward the individual when factoring in the student’s overall performance. In the case of larger, introductory courses, students have the opportunity to receive a grade, normally based on a pass/fail system. While this system is virtually impossible to implement at a public university with over 20,000 students, a new system of grading should definitely be reevaluated.

Teachers should have the ability to set a standard of learning for their classrooms and expect students to follow it. The students who aren’t going to show up for class when receiving a grade definitely aren’t going to show up when they knowingly aren’t receiving one, and that’s their prerogative. Teachers shouldn’t worry about students who don’t worry about themselves. However, the students who do strive to do their best deserve to be rewarded, and this reward does not necessarily have to come in the form of a letter grade. More often than not, a high ‘A’ does not mean a student gleaned insight from the class. Further, not every student who receives an ‘A’ always deserves it. Letter grades ultimately have become nothing more than an indicator of false progress, with grade inflation to blame.

Grade inflation does not allow for stellar students to truly shine. There has been a steady, upward increase in student GPAs, starting in the 1990s, and it has not decreased since. It seems that anything below an ‘A’ is virtually unacceptable. The once standard ‘C’ is becoming obsolete. If students are receiving higher grades than deserved, the standard for excellence changes. Grade inflation varies between schools and disciplines, giving students at different universities with different majors unfair advantages because of fluctuating scales and teaching methods.

With an ever-competitive job market, standing out from your peers is exceedingly important. Severe grade inflation has made it harder for students to stand apart from one another based off of grades alone. Merit has been defined by receiving the highest possible GPA for so long, but the highest GPA does not always translate to the greatest students. It is time for a change in the system.

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