Many US colleges and universities have been struggling with the impact of grade inflation on curriculum, evaluations and admissions. Now, initial fears about the long-term consequences of unrealistic grading systems might come true sooner than expected. The so-called “grade bubble” might just follow similar bubbles in internet start-ups and real estate into historical infamy. And in just five years.
While not attributable to any single variable, one of the primary culprits of increasing numbers of high grades has been unrealistic student expectations. Statisticians involved in the study of this phenomenon have blamed the changes in what students believe they deserve to their coddled upbringing.
“I had one student approach me after class demanding a higher grade because she sat still and said ‘thank you’ when I returned her paper,” complained Dr. Olive Hughes.
Research at the California Institute of Assessment and Outcomes has examined this trend since 2004. Scientists predicted as early as 2008 that an unstemmed growth in the number of As across US schools would lead to a “bubble,” resulting in the collapse of the entire grading infrastructure. “The ripples would extend all the way to the White House,” warned Hughes, “given the common knowledge that virtually all presidents did not deserve their high grades.”
Unfortunately, the very students at the root of the problem are the ones who care least about the broader implications of their bogus transcripts.
“Hey, man, I need to maintain a 4.0 for my dad to keep paying my tuition, rent, food, gas and cable bills,” said Stewart Shay, a junior at Bosco College. Mr. Shay proudly displayed a “corrected” paper, with its C+ replaced by an A-, explaining, “The syllabus did not specify that I couldn’t rely on text messages as a primary reference source, yo.”
One university tried to address the problem by adjusting their grading scheme upwards, from A to A+++. Unfortunately, as with all attempts to stem inflation by printing more currency, this one backfired. Students at the school, which asked to remain anonymous, now fight over plusses.