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Grade Inflation

Do you think "Grade Inflation" is the new party line for testocrats?

Besides the Jay Matthews column in the Washington Post that angered Susan Ohanian, here's a Detroit News article quoting a Manhattan Institute study on grade inflation and suggesting that test scores are more reliable indicators of student performance than are grades.

"Grade Inflation Cheats Students As Employers Get Wise to Scam
High schoolers graduate without skills, and business looks beyond college grades to assess job applicants
By The Detroit News

Grade inflation -- long an inside joke in Michigan schools and elsewhere -- has serious economic consequences. Students who slide through high school are finding out they can't cut college, much less get that high-paying job they want, says new research.

Colleges, meanwhile, are spending millions of dollars to teach students basic skills they should have learned in high school -- dunning taxpayers twice for the same education.

And now the crunch: Employers are getting fed up with bloated and meaningless grade point averages. Many are now emphasizing other indicators to assess job applicants.

All of which is a heads-up for educators.

Padding grades or pushing students through school to make them feel good about themselves is backfiring.

Eventually, students who enjoyed grade inflation learn the truth about their academic skills and feel cheated. That's because they have been. They got a grade they didn't deserve.

A grade is essentially a school's warranty to a student that he or she knows lessons at a certain level. In today's lawsuit-happy society, it wouldn't be surprising if a student sued a high school or college for providing false feedback in report cards. Accountability suits have been filed on shakier grounds than fake grades.

Only 32 percent of students leave public high schools qualified to attend a four-year college, says a study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Even students with good grades arrive unprepared because -- despite high marks -- they don't know the material, say other reports.

Unfortunately, grade inflation rolls right through many colleges, too. Harvard University recently reformed its grading system after criticism that too many A's were handed out. Nearly 90 percent of all students graduated with honors.

In Metro Detroit, high school grades over 10 years increased dramatically compared with scores on standardized tests. As teachers hand out easy grades, the value of a high grade point average declines.

To make matters worse, many students get easy grades in easy courses -- studies that don't emphasize rigorous mathematics, science and writing.

In Georgia, 40 percent of the high school students who earn the state's Hope Scholarship lose it after a year in college because they can't keep up their grades.

The Manhattan Institute concluded that the big losers in grade inflation are minorities. "By far the most important reason black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in college is the failure of the K-12 education system to prepare them for college, rather than insufficient financial aid or inadequate affirmative action policies," researchers said.

Frustrated employers are wise to the grade inflation ruse, and more are now looking at test scores -- such as the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) -- to determine a job applicant's true potential. By examining SATs, employers can make informed decisions amid the overflow "A" students.

Employer rejection of grade inflation raises the question: What's the point of cheap grades? There is none.

Nor has there ever been much value in giving credit where it is not due. The system should die a quick and quiet death.

George Sheridan