Grade inflation

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Grade inflation is the term used to describe the increasingly lenient marking of student examinations to compensate for the falling standards of public/state education brought about by liberal educational schemes. For example, almost half of Harvard students get A's in their courses.[1] One professor admitted that he gave no student a grade lower than B, and that if he did, his teaching career would suffer because no student would want to take his class. Students in high school are also getting higher grades, even as objective measures of student performance, such as standardized test scores, continue to fall.[2]

Grade inflation continues in a vicious cycle, as students whose professors award lower, non-inflated grades are judged worse than those who have received higher, inflated grades. For example, one administrator at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics reminded a teacher that they want to give "grades colleges can look at".[3]

Grade inflation in the United Kingdom

Grade inflation is demonstrated by pass rates in the United Kingdom for the 'A Level' (General Certificate of Education Advanced Level) public examinations usually taken at age 17-18, in the final year of school. A levels are taken in England, Wales and Norther Ireland; a different system applies in Scotland. In 1991 78% of pupils passed their A levels, with 11.9% receiving the top A grade. In 2001 a pass rate of 89.6% was recorded, with 18.6% getting the A grade.[4] In 2008 the pass rate was 97.2%, with 25.9% getting A grades[5] Yet employers organisations increasingly criticise the poor standards of numeracy and literacy of school leavers, and university teachers have to devote energy to coaching new university students to reach the levels of knowledge and ability which in previous years were taken for granted.


  1. Ivy League grade inflation, USA Today, February 7, 2002.
  2. Bruce Bartlett, The truth about grade inflation,, January 30, 2003.
  3. "Tuition Waivers at the N.C. School of Science and Math", Pope Center for Higher Education Policy