It happens in schools, and we are not immune from it at MUS. We regularly see transcripts from student applications representing schools all over the region, so our sample rings true to the trend reported in the Ivys. Ask teachers here who have taught for decades, and they will tell you that our student numerical averages have crept up over time. Additionally, we do not record the amount failing grades and the associated required summer work in order to pass as much as we once did. Parents will not tolerate it, and many colleges demand better grades than they once did a few decades ago. Therefore, while we try very hard to maintain historic integrity, we are not immune.
Arguably, our application pool is a notch above average given the demands of our strong academic program. Therefore, the self-selective nature of our applicants correlates closely with stronger transcripts. However, we sure do see a lot of "A's" and very few "C's" on elementary and middle school report cards. Many of those grades correlate closely with years of standardized tests, therefore the transcripts reveal honestly a genuinely strong student. However, when numerical grades are stronger than years of a student's test scores in the same subject area, there is probably grade inflation.
From the article:
Schools have long struggled to curb grade inflation. Princeton restructured its grading system in 2004, while Yale officials are debating the subject now after finding that 62% of student grades were A- or A, up from 40% in 1974. (For longer-term trends, researchers Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy have a visual interpretation of decades of data here.)
There are at least two major incentives to continue giving students bloated GPAs: the brutal job market for new college graduates and tough competition for spots in elite graduate schools.
Cornell University, which for years published the median grade for each course on its website, ditched the practice in 2011 after faculty voiced concerns that students were avoiding classes with lower median grades.
Companies are wising up to inflated GPAs. The Council for Aid to Education, a nonprofit, is rolling out a standardized test for college seniors that aims to show prospective employers whether a student is equipped for professional life.
“There are going to be more and more perfect-looking people on paper, and employers are just going to disregard grades and rely on other measures” like portfolios, recommendations and interviews, says Healy, an associate professor of computer science at Furman University who keeps tabs on trends in grade inflation.
A great thing about our students' recorded subject scores in both seventh and eighth grade classes is that the marks serve as a true barometer of where the students actually seem to be academically compared to our historic results. For example, if a "C" if a true indication of current productivity, it may or may not reflect true ability or past scores, but it can be trusted to indicate present performance. Everyone should celebrate the truth with this example because we are in the "truth" business with our students. The boys earn their grades. They are not given grades.
More, colleges do not request Lower School grades be calculated for GPA, so there is time to correct whatever may be contributing to the C. The Lower School scores may or may not correlate with the grades recorded from a previous school, so parents and students should take note. Things are different in middle school. However, half the students in seventh grade and 40% of the eighth graders, historically, do earn the Honor Roll. So for many, historical success will continue. No grade inflation required.
The ISEE scores do not closely correlate with MUS grades, we have learned, but a student's composite profile of standardized test scores over the years, including the ISEE, often paint a true picture of school ability for our students. The market is pretty efficient in middle school. The quality of the input (preparation, organization, concentration, priorities and ability) equals the quality of the output (scores).
Non-native subject matter comes to play in middle school, and maturation accentuates the change in academic/social terrain during these years. There will be slight to moderate volatility for many as school becomes more of a challenge in our competitive environment, but the volatility usually is isolated to a subject or to a season. Grade inflation can fail these boys at this point, especially, because the increased school demands require an increase in mature behavior, in planning, in time management. The warning sign of a lower-than-experienced grade is a call to arms for the student to change his approach, not for parental email.
The big picture: where the composite reveals strengths and weaknesses, parents should take note. Don't be surprised. School grades for academic work achieved in the various classes should reflect the composite. Extra credit, student charm, and instructor leniency (and parental pressure on the school) all contribute to grade inflation, and it happens everywhere. That inflation does not serve a student who must learn how to work through difficulty.
Our evidence is that if he trusts the process and parents encourage his discipline, while he may not achieve the college choice of his dreams, or the semester Honor Roll every time, he will learn to confront both himself and reality in a healthy growth pattern, securing life-long relationships and invaluable lessons along the way, no inflation needed.
push comes to shove, only 55% of 18-24 year olds are actually enrolled in
college or have earned a degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey.
The remaining 45% aren’t in college for a variety of reasons
— from being unable to afford tuition, to choosing to enter the workforce, to
failing to complete high school (16% of 18-24 year olds haven’t earned a high
And, of course, enrolling in college doesn’t mean they’ll
graduate. In fact, only 32% of 25-34 year olds held a college degree in 2011,
including 28% of men and 36% of women that age.
So why is it that so many high schoolers want to go to
college but so few end up with degrees?
We've found that it's always a good idea to remind our students about the importance of their social networking postings. If recruiters find fertile grazing for employment decisions by way of an applicant's voluntary online postings, young people should be fair warned. This is the real world now. Consequences can cost our students even if the job market is years away.
Colleges can do the same with regard to their admissions, and, you got it, independent schools can also monitor social networking activity when the health and safety of the school environment conducive for student learning is threatened, i.e., bullying, for example. Photos parents would be disappointed to see, for example, enter the conversation as well.
While classes are still weeks away, we hope everyone really enjoys the remaining vacation. However, our experience shows that as boys and girls in town who are contracted to begin school in August and who are alive and well socially, those lives can partake in risky behavior, even antics that can be exposed online. It would be a shame for summer actions to reflect poorly on a school year that has yet to begin. It has happened before, kids exercising poor choices with their free time and those choices resulting in something that produces a negative effect on our school community with a student disciplinary action... days before the book sale!
Our advice is that parents take both the social and the social media issue to heart and speak clearly to their children about fair and reasonable adult expectations for their adolescent choices, actions of both commission and omission, both in flesh and online. Encourage motivations aimed at promoting the common good and general welfare for all concerned. Trust that the kids know the difference between right and wrong after all your years of parenting, and verify that trust by monitoring all social media charged to your credit card the by underage minors who depend upon you for sustenance, cell phones, and cyber sociability.
You can also remind the kids that they can pony up and help pay that monthly bill for their privilege of ubiquitous connectivity. It ain't a "right." That usually gets their attention, and it helps them learn to become appreciative for their blessings and their access to opportunities. Just sayin'.
Fact: College tuition has increased at a rate 6% higher than the general rate of inflation for the past 25 years, making it four times as expensive relative to other goods and services as it was in 1985. (List of the Top Ten most expensive colleges) Subjective explanation: University administrators have a talent for increasing top line revenues via tuition, but lack the spine necessary to upgrade academic productivity. Professorial tenure and outdated curricula focusing on liberal arts instead of a more practical global agenda focusing on math and science are primary culprits.
Fact: The average college graduate now leaves school with $24,000 of debt and total student loans now exceed this nation's credit card debt at $1.0 trillion and counting (7% of our national debt). Subjective explanation: Universities are run for the benefit of the adult establishment, both politically and financially, not students. To radically change the system and to question the sanctity of a college education would be to jeopardize trillions of misdirected investment dollars and financial obligations.
Conclusion to ponder: American citizens and its universities have experienced an ivy-laden ivory tower for the past half century. Students, however, can no longer assume that a four year degree will be the golden ticket to a good job in a global economy that cares little for their social networking skills and more about what their labor is worth on the global marketplace.
Hmmm. Well, if he's correct, maybe we need to rethink some things about expectations both for our curriculum and our graduates?
Could it work? Should it be? You read the article from Sunday's New York Times and decide for yourself: Should we limit academic competition for the benefit of our students? A Lower School blog reader who read the Times piece and follows education trends responded this way:
How about an Olympics analogy: if you finish fourth in
the 100 yard dash at the Olympics, you're the 4th fastest person of the 7
billion on the planet, but you're still not getting a medal. You'll have
to satisfy yourself with the amazing achievement itself (sans hardware) and
perhaps the disappointment will spur #4 to work harder and be #1 in the future.
Leaders of industry probably wouldn't care about the
ceremonial title of Valedictorian much (maybe in ancient times, the #1 GPA
person would also be the best orator in a class, but that's probably rarely
true today), but business and market leaders would clearly be a fan of class rank. They would see it as
a motivator to achieve. As long as Harvard and the like are selective in
admissions, there will always be competition. You can have 28
valedictorians in the class, but unless all 28 of them are going to Harvard,
there are going to be "winners" and "losers".
Sorry! And that will be true in business where some get better jobs along
with promotions and advancement and others do not.
If people think that eliminating competition is
the right thing to do, then they should start by eliminating interscholastic
athletics (no tryouts, no cuts, no competition for Quarterback or Point Guard,
no wins/losses) and Cheerleading (anyone who wants to cheer can).
Everyone should play for the fun of it -- high school sports should model
itself on elementary intramural participation games. Clearly more self-esteem is lost on the
athletic fields than anywhere else in most American schools as members of the
Football/Basketball Teams and Cheerleading Squads are awarded much more social
status than top students. When they finish eliminating sports (good
luck), then they can start in on class rank.
So, maybe we should begin to take the argument seriously only when we see the same advocates satisfied by their "valedictorians" responses to the inequity in their college admissions... o, and no more try-outs for the teams. Yeah, right.
Affirmative Action for young men! Looks like the success of Title IX unintentionally lowered the percentage of males being accepted into college. While our guys may prefer the ratio of potential dates in their favor, things may equal out by the time they arrive on campus if the admissions committees reverse this unexpected trend.
MUS Director of College Guidance Brian K. Smith wows his packed crowd today during a parent lunch in the Wunderlich Auditorium. "You can't be more interested in the school than Junior is," could be one major point I heard him say. The student must show interest in the school to which he's applying just as the student must show interest in his schoolwork while he's at MUS. Parents who care more than the student cares... not a good formula for success in much of life, particularly with regard to applying to and being accepted by the preferred college or university. Again, who prefers the particular school, the parent or the student? Ah, yes!
Good luck out there, all ye who dare enter the fray of college admissions. Mr. Smith knows what he's doing, he cares about these boys, and following his suggestions is wise.
If you had a chance to read yesterday'sNew York Times Education Lifesupplement section, then your head could still be spinning from the various and worthy discussions presented concerning college admissions. Check it out if you have not yet read it. I spoke with MUS Director of College Advising Brian K. Smith (Briank.Smith@musowls.org) about some of the contents, and he said that he would digest the main subjects and be ready to offer his opinion for those of you who may be understandable anxious about the dynamic world of college admissions.