Grade Inflation in Today's Schools
In contemporary schools, a major part of learning is the assignments that students must complete. Assignments test proficiency in a subject and grades are supposed to reflect proficiency. Unfortunately, grades are no longer representative of students’ skills or the quality of their work. . Many grades simply assess whether an assignment was completed and not whether itwaswell or poorly done.
When a set of grades is abnormally high, it is known as grade inflation. When a student’s grade is inflated, it creates the illusion of success which can cause students to be placed in classes above their skill level.Grade inflation is a symptom of an education system that has come to value credit and grading higher than learning. In most of the Spanish classes I have been in, the assignments have been completion-based. Many people do not understand the concepts but still receive credit simply for attempting homework assignments. This causes problems becausethepeople in the class are at different levels in their learning.
People who don’t have the same ability as the rest of the class can receive passing grades since there are not many tests of their proficiency. In my Spanish classes, there are students who should be in lower level courses, but have continued to advance through classes because there aren’t any major tests to determine if they are ready to move to another level. When students do not have the proper prerequisites for a class, it negatively influences the other students around them. When a teacher tries to teach to alleviate a deficiency for some students, it is unfair for other students to have to wait while a few students are retaught material that the rest of the class is already familiar with. When one student in a class is behind, it can slow down the rest of the class, causinga cycle where all of the students get farther behind in the curriculum.
Some students justify taking courses above their skill level by claiming that they need to take higher level classes in order to get into a good college. However, the goal of school is not to impress colleges, rather, it is to help students learn new material. In our Spanish class we had a discussion about taking AP classes. A question was asked; “If two classes for the same skill level were offered, one AP and one non-AP that had a curriculum that was focused more on fluency, which would you take?” Many students said that they would take the AP class because colleges look for students that take advanced classes. This proves that students and schools are focused on superficial things that are irrelevant to true learning. If all of the students wanted to learn, they would choose a class that focused on fluency, however, many chose the AP option instead.
The purpose in attending a good college is to receive a good education. If students want to get a good education for themselves, then they need to focus on their learning in high school and worry less about their appearance to colleges. The blame for situations in which students are not qualified for the classes that they take cannot be directed solely at the students making the decisions. These decisions are only possible due to the actions of teachers. Teachers have become very lenient toward students who are struggling in courses.
Many teachers have completion based assignments which allows students who shouldn’t be in the class to still achieve passing grades. In order to place students in adequately challenging courses, there need to be more proficiency based assessments in our classes. Students may at first be dissatisfied if a proficiency oriented curriculum is implemented because they may get lower grades. While a change in curriculum may be hard to adapt to initially, and some students may see a drop in their grades, it will ultimately be beneficial to the students by helping them to learn material better. In order to create an effective proficiency based curriculum, the type of homework assignments given should be changed.
Currently, in world language, math, and other classes, homework takes the form of repeating the same process many times. While this can be useful in small quantities, too much homework can actually hurt the students’ learning. If a student encounters a hard problem in a long assignment, they will not be likely to spend time going through it because it will only be a small part of the whole assignment and will not affect a completion grade. Students need shorter assignments that require more concept application and thinking. By making homework assignments shorter, more complex, and assessing them for proficiency, students will benefit more from completing their homework assignments.
These types of assignments will help to emphasize understanding rather than simply valuing completion. In our schools today, grades are given based off of work completion and not content understanding. This practice leads to grade inflation and causes students to take courses that do not correspond with their skill level. This issue is due to both the students and their teachers. Students need to be more self-aware, and place their education above their college transcript.
Teachers need to implement a more proficiency oriented curriculum so that students are naturally grouped based on their skills. By emphasizing proficiency rather than completion, students can learn more efficiently in classes more suited for their skill level.