We recently discussed the runaway grade inflation at Harvard where roughly 80 percent of grades were As. Now the Yale Daily News is reporting the same percentage of As. Indeed, the percentage is virtually identical. Harvard is handing out 79 percent agrees where Yale is apparently more rigorous at 78.9.The report is apparently an embarrassment to the university since the dean of Yale College said that professors are not adhering to guidelines for grading.Yet, this could hardly be a surprise to the dean since these grades are reported and issued by the records office.
Indeed, this average is reportedly down from the prior year where 81.97 percent of students were given As. So not getting an A at Yale meant that you were in the bottom 20 percent of the class.
That means that for virtually all of the students at Yale there was a three-grade system that runs from A+, A, and A-.
The percentage was higher in the African American Studies department at 82.21 percent. However, it was the Gender Students department that showed that 92.6 percent of grades were in the A range. So only 7 % of students did not receive an A in gender studies.
For employers and other universities, it renders the grades from Yale meaningless in judging the capabilities and record of students.
They are not apparently alone.
At Spellman College, economics professor Kendrick Morales was fired after objecting to the school raising his grades without his consent, even after massively increasing the grades.
Morales worked for two years at Spellman and taught two upper-level courses. In one class, he added a 28-point grade bump for one test at the request of his department chair.
When students overall bombed the final, Morales “pre-emptively” raised them 36 points so that a student receiving a 57 would receive an A. Yet, even with that increase, 44 percent of that class would still fail. Indeed, they had failed, but Morales says that Undergraduate Studies Dean Desiree Pedescleaux bumped up the students’ grades again without his approval.
He was later fired.
The allegations not only raise questions over the academic standards at Spellman, but the violation of academic freedom.
Grade inflation is only the latest sign of how school administrators have lost control of universities and colleges. It also reflects a growing expectation of students in terms of higher GPAs.
It is easy to say that this is the byproduct of the “trophy generation,” but this is not their fault. Years ago, I had an interesting conversation with one of my classes over this negative image and one student said that they never wanted participation trophies. She noted it was my generation that wanted them to have them, not the kids. Another student said that she would routinely throw away trophies as meaningless and insulting.
The same could well prove true for grades that they will become worthless and discarded if this trend continues. That will undermine a critical role of universities in evaluating the performance of students. That role not only helps future employers. It is even more important in offering students a true appraisal of their work. Often students will pursue degrees for the wrong reasons and not consider other fields that may be better suited to their talents and interests. If you are getting nothing but As in your economics or gender studies course, there is little reason to consider alternatives.
When John F. Kennedy was given an honorary degree at Yale, he quipped “it might be said now that I have the best of both worlds. A Harvard education and a Yale degree.” It turns out that both now come with the same 80 percent likelihood of receiving an A. The question is not the degree but the education at either school with such grade inflation.